Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

International scientific team criticizes adoption of 'novel ecosystems' by policymakers

Date:
August 18, 2014
Source:
University of Tennessee
Summary:
Novel ecosystems arise when human activities transform biological communities through species invasions and environmental change. They are seemingly ubiquitous, and thus many policymakers and ecologists argue for them to be accepted as the "new normal" -— an idea the researchers say is a bad one.

This picture features a classic novel ecosystem. The ground cover is cogon grass, a highly invasive Asian grass that is one of the South’s worst and fastest-growing weed problems. The trees in this forest are most native loblolly pine. The picture was taken recently on the flood plain of the Pascagoula River in Mississippi.
Credit: Andre Clewell

Embracing "novel" ecosystems is dangerous, according to a new study by an international team.

Related Articles


Novel ecosystems arise when human activities transform biological communities through species invasions and environmental change. They are seemingly ubiquitous, and thus many policymakers and ecologists argue for them to be accepted as the "new normal" -- an idea the researchers say is a bad one.

In the study, published in the September edition of the academic journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution, the international team argues that adopting novel ecosystems is based on faulty, data-deficient assumptions and a catchy schematic figure, not on robust, empirically tested science.

"Novel ecosystems yield unintended and perverse outcomes, and the concept provides 'license to trash' or 'get-out-of-jail card' for companies seeking to fast-track environmental licenses or to avoid front-end investment in research and restoration," said Dan Simberloff, an ecology and evolutionary biology professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. "The concept may even provide incentives to governments to continue to ignore the long-term environmental and ecological negative impacts of business as usual with respect to sustainable development and natural resources management."

The authors warn that the "novel ecosystems" concept is not only an empty shell; it is also a real threat in terms of policy direction. It is tantamount to opening the floodgates to invasive species and abandoning ecosystems that have evolved historically over many millennia and the biodiverse communities they have created.

Instead, they call for applying the precautionary principles of conservation and restoration to re-establish or try to emulate the historical trajectories of our ecosystems, to allow restored systems to adapt to environmental changes while providing essential services to human populations.

The authors acknowledge barriers to restoration and conservation but note that they are sociological, political and economic, not ecological. Projects like the restoration of the jarrah forest near Perth and the sand dune plant communities of northern California demonstrate that with real determination and appropriate investment, restoration can work very effectively -- even on utterly devastated landscapes.

Stuart Pimm, at Duke University, a conservation expert who was not involved in the study, said "Murcia and her colleagues have written a damning indictment of those who think anything will do when it comes to healing the damage we have done to our natural world."

Ecological restoration is making its way to the top of the agenda worldwide at the United Nations, the European Commission, development banks, the world's largest conservation organizations, and boardrooms of multinational resource corporations. Thirty years of research and development in the science of ecological restoration show it is possible to rehabilitate and restore degraded landscapes. Importantly, restoration makes scientific and political good sense as an investment whose benefits far outweigh its costs, write the authors.

Simberloff collaborated with lead author Carolina Murcia at the University of Florida and researchers from the Organization for Tropical Studies in Durham, North Carolina; Centre d'Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive in France; Missouri Botanical Garden; Pontificia Universidad Javeriana Seccional in Colombia; Kings Park and Botanic Garden in Australia; and the University of Western Australia.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Tennessee. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Carolina Murcia, James Aronson, Gustavo H. Kattan, David Moreno-Mateos, Kingsley Dixon, Daniel Simberloff. A critique of the ‘novel ecosystem’ concept. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 2014; DOI: 10.1016/j.tree.2014.07.006

Cite This Page:

University of Tennessee. "International scientific team criticizes adoption of 'novel ecosystems' by policymakers." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 August 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140818102026.htm>.
University of Tennessee. (2014, August 18). International scientific team criticizes adoption of 'novel ecosystems' by policymakers. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140818102026.htm
University of Tennessee. "International scientific team criticizes adoption of 'novel ecosystems' by policymakers." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140818102026.htm (accessed October 30, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deadly Mudslide in Sri Lanka Buries Houses

Deadly Mudslide in Sri Lanka Buries Houses

AP (Oct. 29, 2014) A mudslide triggered by monsoon rains buried scores of workers' houses at a tea plantation in central Sri Lanka on Wednesday, killing at least 10 people and leaving more than 250 missing, an official said. (Oct. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Galapagos Tortoises Bounce Back, But Ecosystem Lags

Galapagos Tortoises Bounce Back, But Ecosystem Lags

Newsy (Oct. 29, 2014) The Galapagos tortoise has made a stupendous recovery from the brink of extinction to a population of more than 1,000. But it still faces threats. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Saharan Solar Project to Power Europe

Saharan Solar Project to Power Europe

Reuters - Business Video Online (Oct. 29, 2014) A solar energy project in the Tunisian Sahara aims to generate enough clean energy by 2018 to power two million European homes. Matt Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obama: The US Will Not 'run and Hide' From Ebola

Obama: The US Will Not 'run and Hide' From Ebola

AP (Oct. 29, 2014) Surrounded by health care workers in the White House East Room, President Barack Obama said the U.S. will likely see additional Ebola cases in the weeks ahead. But he said the nation can't seal itself off in the fight against the disease. (Oct. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins