Fostering the passion while applying caution
Article first published online: 24 MAY 2013
© 2013 Ecological Society of Australia
Ecological Management & Restoration
Volume 14, Issue 2, page 79, May 2013
How to Cite
McDonald, T. (2013), Fostering the passion while applying caution. Ecological Management & Restoration, 14: 79. doi: 10.1111/emr.12052
- Issue published online: 24 MAY 2013
- Article first published online: 24 MAY 2013
Many of articles and book reviews in this issue relate to the nuts and bolts of conservation management of ecosystems in Australia and New Zealand. Topics range from developing or examining new tools for management to learning from natural processes. Behind the practical and scientific effort, however, runs a rich seam of motivation to conserve ecosystems. This allows individual researchers and managers to go that extra mile to conceive and develop successful projects and then communicate their results to others.
This issue's EMR interview with ecologist Per Christensen is a good illustration of the importance of motivation. From his years in Kenya as a child, Per developed a curiosity for animals and was exposed to the process of trapping and relocating animals from Africa to zoos all around the world. When he moved to Western Australia in the late 1960s, those interests and skills helped him initiate some of the first faunal reintroductions in his new home country, returning some declining small native mammal species back into their previously known habitats. In Australia at that time, proposing and managing faunal reintroductions would have required a high degree of motivation as there were few precedents; although bird reintroductions were already underway in New Zealand. Indeed, real commitment and passion turned out to be needed by the teams to ensure persistence through the numerous lessons that are part and parcel of any innovation. The degree of success of the programs and others that followed has been encouraging – with the passion tempered only by the degree of caution necessary to achieve success and avoid harm.
More complicated in both philosophic and practical terms is ‘assisted migration’, the subject of Stephen Harris and colleagues’ comment piece in this issue. As readers will know, this is the proposed practice (raised in the context of climate change) of moving highly climate-sensitive animals beyond their historic ranges in the hope that some extinctions can be avoided. Partly in response to vigorous debate on the topic among many ecologists over the last few years, the IUCN have developed a set of guidelines for ‘conservation translocations’ that aim to balance the passion to save species from extinction with the caution needed to avoid this causing further damage to other species and communities (IUCN SSC 2012). In their comment piece on the topic in this issue of EMR, Harris and colleagues add to the growing body of guidelines, proposing a number of factors relating to translocation receiving sites that would need to be considered if and when this potentially risky practice of assisted migration is being planned in Australia.
Far more familiar territory is the practice of landscape restoration in cleared agricultural areas of Australia and New Zealand – an example of which is provided in this issue's feature article by David Lindenmayer, Emmo Willink and colleagues on the results of monitoring revegetation outcomes in the South West Slopes of New South Wales, Australia. Despite its familiarity to many, this practice is still somewhat experimental, with monitoring an important mechanism for not only measuring success to date and identifying how best to reinstate habitat, but also for contributing to our understanding of habitats per se. What some might take for granted as an assured process of improving habitats, driven by a passion to actively compensate for environmental damage, is viewed by others as an important landscape ecology experiment, with data now starting to trickle in. Reviewing data from 30 years of revegetation, this issue's article provides evidence that creating larger, more structurally diverse patches configured strategically among smaller ones is achieving improved habitat function compared the more simplistic ‘tree planting’ approach of the earlier era where woodlots were narrow and structurally simple. This shows that the passion to heal our landscape has become better directed over the decades and augers well for a future where much larger strides are going to be needed if we are to improve the function of ecosystems in agricultural areas.
- IUCN Species Survival Commission (2012) Guidelines for Reintroductions and other conservation translocations. Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats Standing Committee 32nd meeting, 27–30 November 2012, Strasbourg. [Accessed April 2013.] Available from URL: http://www.issg.org/pdf/publications/Translocation-Guidelines-2012.pdf.