Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Uses and Disadvantages of History for Restoration

Thoughts comments before I submit this abstract...

A central tenet of ecology is that each species has a unique niche.  Although we do not, of course, know precisely the number of species on earth – perhaps not even to the nearest order of magnitude – nevertheless, niche theory suggests that we have millions of species plying their independent ecological trades in local environments.  From the perspective of the “equilibrium paradigm” in ecology local assemblages are assumed to be regulated primarily by competition among organisms, and therefore a tight relationship between species composition and ecosystems processes might be expected to exist.  Under these assumptions restoration strategies that protect ecosystems processes and services will map quite nicely onto a more traditional focus of protecting species.  However, over the last generation of ecological thought the role of non-equilibrium forces, disturbance and so forth, are now appreciated as contributing to the structure of local assemblages. Species may be redundant with respect to their contributions to important ecosystems processes; therefore one might predict the recovery of these processes in degraded systems without a concomitant recovery in species.   Thus, although the structure and function of ecosystems are inextricably linked they are not necessarily tightly linked and consequently we can define two target poles for restoration.  Prioritize the saving all the pieces, oftentimes using the historical systems as a guide, or saving the function of systems, which may result in novel ecosystem.  I will discuss these tradeoffs from a variety of perspectives.  In my remarks I will draw upon the work of German philologist Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche whose metric for evaluating the utility for history was the degree to which our historical sensibilities served the needs of “a mighty new current of life.” 

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