1 Tahrcountry Musings: An attempt at integrating history and ecology

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

An attempt at integrating history and ecology

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

Even though the role of humans in shaping current ecosystems was recognized decades ago, the integration of history and ecology as conservation too has been difficult.
The researchers here identified four issues that hinder historical ecological research and discuss possible solutions.

1) Differences in concepts and methods between the fields of ecology and history are large. The fact is that differences arise from miscommunication between ecologists and historians. The researchers say the differences are less substantial than is usually assumed. 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) Historical ecological research is often hamstrung by differences in spatial and temporal scales between ecology and history. The researchers 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) The 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 view of researchers 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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