From bobolinks to bears: interjecting geographical history into ecological studies, environmental interpretation, and conservation planning



In these days of supercomputer-based global climate models, large ecosystem experiments including Biosphere II, and aircraft-borne sensors of ozone holes it is often overlooked that many fundamental insights into ecological processes and major environmental issues come not through reductionist or high-tech studies of modern conditions but from thoughtful consideration of nature’s history. In fact, it is foolhardy to make any ecological interpretation of modern landscapes or environments or to formulate policy in conservation or natural resource management without an historical context that extends back decades, at least, but preferably centuries or millennia. Oftentimes, the ecological and conservation communities, in their search for more detail on the present and simulation of the future, appear to have forgotten the value of a deep historical perspective in research and application. However, the willingness of the geographical sciences to embrace broad temporal and spatial perspectives and to consider cultural as well as natural processes is worth emulating as we address environmental subjects in the new millennium.