1 Tahrcountry Musings: Human societies as driving forces of ecosystem change

Monday, January 16, 2012

Human societies as driving forces of ecosystem change

Advancing the Integration of History and Ecology for Conservation
Conservation Biology, Volume 25Issue 4pages 680–687August 2011

Here is another very interesting paper that I managed to read this weekend. The authors of the paper discuss the importance of advancing the integration of history and ecology for Conservation.

Even though the important role of humans in the development of current ecosystems was recognized decades ago, the integration of history and ecology has been a difficult process. The researchers identified four issues that hinder historical ecological research and considered possible solutions

1)      The differences in concepts and methods between the fields of ecology and history are large. The researchers say most of the differences stem from miscommunication between ecologists and historians and are less substantial than is usually assumed. They add on that cooperation can be achieved by focusing on the features ecology and history has in common and through understanding and acceptance of differing points of view. 

2)      The researchers contend that historical ecological research is often hampered by differences in spatial and temporal scales between ecology and history. They argue that historical ecological research can only be conducted at extents for which sources in both disciplines have comparable resolutions. Researchers must begin by clearly defining the relevant scales for the given purpose. 

3)      Periods for which quantitative historical sources are not easily accessible (before AD 1800) have been neglected in historical ecological research. However data from periods before 1800 are as relevant to the current state of ecosystems as more recent data. The researchers suggest that historical ecologists actively seek out data from before 1800 and apply analytic methods commonly used in ecology to these data.

4)       Humans are not usually considered an intrinsic ecological factor in current ecological research. In the researchers view, human societies should be acknowledged as integral parts of ecosystems and societal processes should be recognized as driving forces of ecosystem change.

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