Is a constructive conservation the last chance for biodiversity?
How can biodiversity be preserved in a world in which traditional ecosystems are increasingly being displaced by "man-made nature"? Biologists at the TU Darmstadt and ETH Zurich have developed a new concept for conservation measures that incorporates current landscapes formerly considered ecologically "of little value". Numerous experiences from islands have shown that this concept has a positive effect on biodiversity. Now the authors are proposing upscaling these experiences to other landscape scenarios.
In a human-dominated world that contains only little "historical" nature, the term ecosystem can no longer be a synonym for unspoilt nature. The term "novel ecosystems" was coined a few years ago to describe disturbed ecosystems in which biodiversity has been significantly altered as the result of human intervention. "In our new conservation framework we argue that this strict distinction between historic and novel ecosystems should be reconsidered to aid conservation", pollination biologist Dr. Christopher Kaiser-Bunbury describes the approach, which is not without controversy.
On continents with vast natural parks, such as the USA and Africa, critics fear that the new concept could weaken the protection of historic nature by, for instance, redirecting financial resources towards more active intervention and design of ecosystems. The team of Darmstadt and Zurich biologists, however, propagates a reconciling approach. "Our framework combines strategies that were, until now, considered incompatible. Not only historic wildlands are worth protecting, but also designed cultural landscapes. Given the increased anthropogenic pressure on nature, we propose a multi-facetted approach to preserve biodiversity: to protect historic nature where ecologically viable; to actively create new, intensively managed ecosystems; to accept novel ecosystems as natural, wild landscapes; and to convert agricultural and other cultivated landscapes while generally maintaining land-use priorities."