Managed relocation (MR) is literally the physical relocation of endangered or threatened species of plants and animals, by humans, to new, and foreign geographical climes. It addresses the concern that climate shifts may make many species' historical ranges environmentally inhospitable, and that the rapid speed of change and habitat fragmentation will prevent them from adapting to these new conditions or moving themselves. And while conservationists argue that the practice may not preserve some species, such as the polar bear, relocation is a hotly debated option for others' long-term survival.
Arizona State University environmental ethicist Ben Minteer and ecologist James P. Collins ask hard questions about the practice, also known as assisted colonization, assisted migration or assisted translocation, in their article "Move it or Lose it" published October 1 in the journal Ecological Applications.
Stress on native species is just one of the unknowns that come into play with translocation of species. There also remains the more critical question of how to evaluate such management decisions, according to Minteer, an associate professor in ASU's School of Life Sciences and researcher in the Center for Biology and Society, and Collins, a Virginia G. Ullman Professor of Natural History and the Environment in ASU's School of Life Sciences in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
"New approaches to conservation, such as MR mean the need for a new 'ecological ethics' geared toward problem-solving in ecological research and policy," says Minteer. "Beyond asking 'should' we do it, there's the more pragmatic ethical question: what separates a 'good' from a 'bad' MR activity?" In a time of rapid global change, Collins says that "ecologists and biodiversity managers will have to think hard about not only what management actions are possible, but also which ones are acceptable ethically."
Such discussion is as critical as the technical and scientific questions of relocation: the "can we do it and how we do it," the authors state.
Minteer points out that while moving species around is nothing new, the climate change rationale for doing so is. "Looking past creating parks and shielding species from bullets, bulldozers and oil spills in favor of the anticipatory relocation for conservation purposes strikes many as different, in terms of motive and perhaps the extent of the consequences."
Minteer and Collins's call to reassess conservation goals in the face of climate change is timely. While the practice has no guarantees of success, managed relocation of species is already being put into practice. The Florida torreya tree is an example, along with the proposed relocation of the Quino Checkerspot butterfly and the Iberian lynx.
Collins says that the real scientific concern with species relocation – voiced by prominent skeptics – is that crossing evolutionary boundaries via managed relocation will produce a number of negative ecological and genetic consequences for species and systems on the receiving end.
How to leap the ethical gulf separating decisions about which species should be moved and "saved" is also critical to the debate. Though some argue that human activity has already played an active role in shifting species and that some populations are "naturally" undergoing range shifts without assistance due to climate change in response to human pressures as well as natural ones.
However, as Minteer points out, "There is also the more philosophical objection to the fact that 'we' are doing this, rather than the populations themselves, and that this is therefore another example of human arrogance toward wild species and the environment more generally."
Does the shift to focus on relocation strategies mean that more traditional routes to preserve species, such as species migration corridors that connect forest patches, will become anachronistic?
"Traditional philosophy and policy of conserving species will likely change to reflect a more anticipatory and interventionist mode of thinking," Minteer says. "What this spells for conventional norms of ecological preservation is that they may have to give way to a more dynamic and 'novel systems' model rather than historical ones."
In other words, the "metabolism" of conservation will have to speed up to keep in step with climate change, Minteer believes.
Some believe that the distraction from the use of traditional protected areas and historical systems models, will also, once managed relocation is legitimized, open the floodgates and that people will start moving species willy nilly around the landscape. "I think that fear is exaggerated, though the precedent that would be set for ecological policy by formally adopting MR, even as a last resort, is indeed a significant issue," says Minteer.
"How to formulate new approaches to ecological research and management landscapes in an era of rapid and global environmental change raises original and difficult ethical questions about how to save species and protect landscapes," Collins states. "We can improve the decisions we make by using more collaborative and interdisciplinary approaches to such problem-solving and decision-making."
Margaret Coulombe | EurekAlert!
Conservationists are sounding the alarm: parrots much more threatened than assumed
15.09.2017 | Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen
A new indicator for marine ecosystem changes: the diatom/dinoflagellate index
21.08.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung Warnemünde
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
19.09.2017 | Event News
12.09.2017 | Event News
06.09.2017 | Event News
22.09.2017 | Life Sciences
22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering
22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy