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Restoration ecology versus conservation biology

Writing in the journal Biological Conservation, Truman Young wrote:

The conservation mind set is one of more or less permanent loss; the implicit assumption is that all trends are down, and that our goal is to slow or stop degradation (declining population paradigm) or to maintain the remnants as small fragments of the original (small population paradigm). Delisting endangered species is met with (justified?) suspicion.

The restoration mind set is one of recovery after temporary loss. Conservation problems are viewed in the context of this future recovery. When restoration ecologists hear a statement like, ‘This endangered population of 250 individuals has a 50% chance of extinction over the next 100 years’, they think, ‘Why would we let this population languish at 250 individuals for so long? Let’s restore it!’

One may even say that restoration ecologists tend to be optimistic, and conservation biologists pessimistic. This has led to conflicting interpretation of trends (Richter, 1997; Dobson et al., 1997. I would argue that both contain elements of truth.

I find that distinction fascinating; I can really relate.  At heart, I think more like a restoration ecologist than a conservation biologist, but I can see both paths.  One is optimistic, almost to the point of being naive.  The other is pessimistic, sometimes to the point of despair.  It’s like poetry – reading what you have always felt, but never quite figured out how to say…

Young, Truman P. 2000. Restoration ecology and conservation biology. Biological Conservation 92:73–83. doi:10.1016/S0006-3207(99)00057-9


One Response

  1. Bear in mind both disciplines are not mutually exclusive. In fact, at the landscape level they intertwine. For example, when you have fragmented patches of forest, the best strategy is to enhance connectivity with biological corridors and restore degraded areas principally at the edge of these fragments. The corridors can be built with endangered plant species in the landscape, and they will help animal populations to move between the landscape, generating more resilience to extinction.

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