Tuesday, October 06, 2015

A Shifting Approach to Saving Endangered Species

Traditional approaches to species conservation have focused on saving individual animals or plants in specific locations, with the goal of restoring as much land as possible to its former pristine condition. Conservation efforts — walling off areas to preserve habitat, for example — have been structured around a particular species’ needs, with little or no attempt to reconcile those protections with the larger needs of human society. And regulatory solutions have taken precedence over financial or other incentive-based tactics, with landowners and companies often viewed as hostile actors. But a growing number of conservationists argue that this view is far too narrow, especially in an era of climate change and rapid population growth. By the end of the century, according to projections, as many as 10 billion humans will be competing with other species for available space. And changes in climate are already forcing species to move into new terrains, migrations that will increase in the future. For conservation to succeed, some environmentalists argue, it must work on a larger scale, focusing not on preserving single species in small islands of wilderness but on large landscapes and entire ecosystems, and the benefits that nature provides to humans. The remaining sagebrush in the West, for example, is home not only to the greater sage grouse but also to many other mammals, birds, invertebrates and plants: Daniel M. Ashe, the director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency that made the grouse decision, said the government’s conservation plan would protect more than 350 other species that share the landscape. And preserving such habitats means that important natural processes continue, like pollination and the storage in vegetation of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. “It’s not about setting aside places for wild species anymore,” said Frank Davis, the director of the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “It’s about figuring ways to coexist with them in a highly uncertain future.” Conservation efforts, according to this view, will be more effective if they accept humans as a part of nature and come to terms with the fact that they have irrevocably altered the landscape...more

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