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The Shifting of Ecological Restoration Benchmarks and Their Social Impacts: Digging Deeper into Pleistocene Re-wilding

Authors

  • David Toledo,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Ecosystem Sciences and Management, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, U.S.A.
    2. NSF-IGERT Applied Biodiversity Science Program at Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, U.S.A.
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  • Marta S. Agudelo,

    1. NSF-IGERT Applied Biodiversity Science Program at Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, U.S.A.
    2. Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, U.S.A.
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  • Amanda L. Bentley

    1. NSF-IGERT Applied Biodiversity Science Program at Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, U.S.A.
    2. Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, U.S.A.
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D. Toledo, email david_toledo@tamu.edu

Abstract

Current and projected rates of species loss prompt us to look for innovative conservation efforts. One such proposal is that large areas of North America be re-wilded with old world species that descended from Pleistocene mega-fauna. We argue that this approach overlooks many important ecological, evolutionary, cultural, and economic issues and detracts from conservation efforts by adding another arbitrary restoration benchmark. Our objectives are to specifically address the shifting benchmark for ecological restoration, explore the social dimensions of Pleistocene re-wilding, which have been largely overlooked, and discuss why we think Pleistocene re-wilding is not a proactive approach for conservation. This is not intended as a critique of innovative approaches. Instead it is an argument that human and ecological factors need to be considered in depth before any restoration initiative can be practically implemented. Proactive approaches should consider historical conditions while managing based on the present, should plan for the future, and should allow adaptation to changing conditions. We support the strategy to restore ecological interactions using species that coevolved with these interactions, bearing in mind the complexities of the socio-ecological dimensions of any management action.

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