Daron Williams wrote:Victor – Thanks for your comment! I agree with your comment though I’m curious what your thoughts are about restoring the wilds in a very changed world. I just went to a restoration symposium that focused on how our historical baseline for what nature should be may not be valid in our changed world. One view was that we needed to allow for hybrid systems – which seems to be what is happening naturally in a lot of places to various levels.
I do control/remove invasive plants if they are forming a dense monoculture and I try to add native plants where I can but at the same time I have become more accepting of leaving non-native plants even in wild areas as long as they don’t form a monoculture. Really there are only a small number in my area that do that.
Your second comment covers some of this, but I would be interested if you have any other thoughts on this topic.
Lorne Green used to have a nature program called "New Wilderness", based on the notion that we are not going to find any more pristine "wilderness", that we have to conceive of it, perceive it, and act according to the realization that things have changed.
Environmentalists now are increasingly concentrating on ecosystem health rather than individual species. If we manage to shepherd a healthy ecosystem to develop, it is going to contain "invasive" species, and it will NEVER be a reproduction of what was here in 1491. Let's not forget that, to concentrate just on the fauna, the elk, moose, grey wolf, bison, grizzly were all "invasive species" who migrated into North America through Beringia. The wild horses and camels of Eurasia descended from immigrants from America, as the migrations went in both directions.
Invasive species who have detrimental effects on native ones should indeed by removed, as long as we remember that there is no attainable pristine state to which we should aspire. Ecosystem health would be far preferable to the ecosystem degradation we now have, and if that can be achieved, I will not mind if there are invasive species involved (not Japanese beetles, though, PLEASE).
New syntheses will have to evolve, as with very high populations we are not going to simply remove humans from large portions of the environment to achieve some sort of "natural" state. Perhaps one thing we'll have to do is eliminate the distinction of "wild" and "civilized". We are going to have to live WITH nature, not walled off from it, not in a separate reality while "nature" lives in national parks or forests.
Here in the central Virginia piedmont, we have woods severely degraded (in terms of species diversity), depleted tobacco-ravaged soil, and so on. I maintain that we CAN and must strive to introduce species to increase the diversity. For fauna, this can include maintaining snags and fallen wood, as has been discussed in here. We are doing that and providing houses for birds. For flora, it may require transplanting species from healthier forests (in our case, those in the Blue Ridge a few miles away). We have tried that with mixed success. It is a longterm process and how GREAT it would be if we had local, state and federal govts encouraging and enabling more habit restoration and re-introductions to create diverse healthy ecosystems.
We can no longer think of "the wild" and "wilderness" as we once could. We're in the Anthropocene now. Homo sapiens is managing ecosystems worldwide. We need enhanced efforts to do this right! Meanwhile, as individuals... plant trees, put up birdhouses, enhance habitat where we can.
These are some opinions off the top of my head. Certainly these are very productive conversations to have and I hope to see these concerns enter mainstream thinking more in the future.
just read an interesting article here the effects of reintroducing top predators questioned. I could see how sometimes, especially with other factors changing, just putting in the major predators might not take things back to the original state. I read several years ago that the was a huge population explosion of jellyfish iin some parts of the Black Sea where fish had been exterminated (I think by low oxygen content in the water from too much fertilizer). When they fixed the fertilizer problem, the jellyfish came back instead of the fish. They were discussing how there may be multiple stable points in an environment rather than one. If that's the case, after a massive clearcut the forest may come back with different dominant species. I've read that much of New England and the New York/ Pensylvania area were originally soft wood, but when they clear cut the whole region, after about 60 years it came back as hardwoods. Maybe the climate was at a tipping point? Food for thought.
Ecologists speak of "keystone" species, not necessarily the apex predator, but a species whose removal engenders the greatest change/disruption. The classic case is that of the starfish whose removal causes mussel populations to rapidly increase, displacing many other species. Starfish predation on mussels keeps their populations in check and allows other species to have room to thrive.
In the ideal world which exists in my mind, universities are drastically funding research into biological ecology to increase our understanding of all this complexity and how we might act to enhance ecosystem health. In the real world, we all do what we can to take intelligence informed action.
Yeah, it seems things in nature are always more complex than we sometimes like. Hard to narrow an ecosystem down to one species.
In my environmental restoration work a lot of the time I'm focusing on restoring habitat for salmon. The general school of thought was conifers along the streams and rivers. Now research is showing that conifers alone are not as beneficial as once thought. The critters that salmon eat need the leaves from hardwoods such as bigleaf maple (in my area) that fall into the water. When only conifers were planted there was very little for these critters to eat which meant there was very few critters for the salmon to eat.
For my own designs I always mixed in hardwoods but I was always getting push back on that from people that wanted more conifers. Just interesting how complex the solutions tend to be.