Conservation Biology As A Discipline
As a distinct scientific field, conservation biology is an integrated, multidisciplinary subject that developed in response to the challenge of preserving populations, species, ecosystems, and biological interactions. The main aim of conservation biology is to ensure the long-term preservation of biodiversity. To achieve its aim, conservation biology has set three goals:
- To document Earths biological diversity.
- To investigate how humans influence species, evolution, and ecosystem processes.
- To investigate practical approaches to protect and restore biological communities, maintain genetic diversity, and prevent the extinction of species.
The first two goals describe typical scientific research investigating objective facts. The third goal, however, is a part of what makes conservation biology a normative discipline that is, conservation biology incorporates human values, not just facts, to understand and achieve its value-laden goals . In this sense, conservation biology is related to environmentalism, in which people aim to protect the natural environment for its own sake. However, conservation biology is at its core a scientific discipline it is founded on scientific principles. This is not to say you must be a scientist to practice conservation biology there are many people who are not scientists who apply the principles of conservation biology in their professional and personal lives.
Conflicting Science Conflicting Values
Three decades ago, Michael Soulé was at the forefront of a battle to save nature from humanity. He and other ecologists had begun to articulate the concept of biodiversity as a focal point in conservation. In 1985, Soulé published a seminal essay, called What is Conservation Biology? The article helped define the then-emerging field of ecological research and application. It was an ethically imbued science with an underlying precept: plants, animals, and ecosystems had intrinsic value. This biocentric ethic called for nature to be protected from human activities, which, as Soulé wrote, had unleashed a frenzy of environmental destruction that threatened to eliminate millions of species in our lifetime.
In the mid-1980s, as Soulé began laying the groundwork for a new professional organizationthe Society for Conservation BiologyPeter Kareiva was immersed in fieldwork studying the dynamics of predator-prey insect populations. Kareiva had just joined the zoology department at the University of Washington and had started trekking out to Mount St. Helens, five years after its volcano erupted. He watched new ecological life slowly emerge on the denuded, lava-scorched landscape. This frontline view planted a nagging thought in Kareivas mind: perhaps nature, which green rhetoric often depicts as fragile, was more resilient than he and his colleagues realized.
The History Of Ocean Conservation
About 71% of the Earth’s surface is covered in water, and almost all of that water is part of the oceans. This marine environment is home to a wide variety of species, many of which have become vulnerable in recent years due to pollution, rising temperatures, and overfishing. Since humans caused these problems, there are many who believe that we should fix them as well. And over the past few decades, several organizations have tried to do just that. Let’s take a look at the history of this important effort.
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Economic Values And Natural Capital
Conservation biologists have started to collaborate with leading global economists to determine how to measure the wealth and services of nature and to make these values apparent in global market transactions. This system of accounting is called natural capital and would, for example, register the value of an ecosystem before it is cleared to make way for development. The WWF publishes its Living Planet Report and provides a global index of biodiversity by monitoring approximately 5,000 populations in 1,686 species of vertebrate and report on the trends in much the same way that the stock market is tracked.
The ecological credit crunch is a global challenge. The Living Planet Report 2008 tells us that more than three-quarters of the world’s people live in nations that are ecological debtors their national consumption has outstripped their country’s biocapacity. Thus, most of us are propping up our current lifestyles, and our economic growth, by drawing upon the ecological capital of other parts of the world.
WWF Living Planet Report
The Importance Of Biodiversity To Human Life
It may not be clear why biologists are concerned about biodiversity loss. When biodiversity loss is thought of as the extinction of the passenger pigeon, the dodo bird, and even the woolly mammoth, the loss may appear to be an emotional one. But is the loss practically important for the welfare of the human species? From the perspective of evolution and ecology, the loss of a particular individual species is unimportant . Extinction is a normal part of macroevolution. But the accelerated extinction rate means the loss of tens of thousands of species within our lifetimes, and it is likely to have dramatic effects on human welfare through the collapse of ecosystems and in added costs to maintain food production, clean air and water, and human health.
Agriculture began after early hunter-gatherer societies first settled in one place and heavily modified their immediate environment. This cultural transition has made it difficult for humans to recognize their dependence on undomesticated living things on the planet. Biologists recognize the human species is embedded in ecosystems and is dependent on them, just as every other species on the planet is dependent. Technology smoothes out the extremes of existence, but ultimately the human species cannot exist without its ecosystem.
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The Roots Of Biodiversity Protection
In the early 1900s, when President Theodore Roosevelt was establishing national parks and wildlife refuges, ecology had not yet become a formalized science. People viewed the natural world from a largely aesthetic or utilitarian perspective.
John Muir, the Sierra Club founder who famously went camping with Roosevelt in Californias Yosemite National Park, worshipped nature. It was his church. The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness, he wrote in his journals. Roosevelt, an avid outdoorsman, venerated nature, too. But he also viewed it as a valuable natural resourcetrees for timber, rivers for fishing, wildlife for hunting.
These two worldviewsvaluing nature for itself and for human purposeshave long framed dual approaches to conservation.
Two parallel developments at this timeone in the emerging science of ecology and the other in the U.S. wilderness preservation movementcombined with Leopolds philosophy to shape attitudes toward nature and conservation for decades to come. Ecologists believed then that healthy ecosystems were closed, self-regulating, and in equilibrium. Disturbances, in the form of weather, fires, or migrating organisms, were not yet factored in, except when the disturbance was thought to be human-induced, in which case the prevailing belief was that the system was thrown off its normal balance.
These two worldviewsvaluing nature for itself and for human purposeshave long framed dual approaches to conservation.
Conservation Success Stories So Far
Conservation engages governments, local people, interest groups, and charities working together to ensure that a certain resource or elements of the natural landscape or cultural heritage is preserved for future generations. There are many such examples of success stories around the world, some of which are listed here.
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Examples Of Nonviolent Communication In Practice
To date, no study has empirically investigated the use of NVC in conservation contexts, though some have alluded to its potential relevance . Despite decades of conservation social science research, such as conservation marketing and environmental psychology and sociology , as well as the growth of conservation messaging research and the promotion of conservation scientists’ engagement in public outreach and activism , NVC remains an untapped tool for enhancing communication of conservation science across disciplines, actors, and cultural contexts at the interpersonal level. The lessons learnt from cases in which NVC has successfully been applied in other contexts are relevant for its potential utility within conservation science.
The NVC model was originally designed to be used during face-to-face interactions , but there are examples of NVC being used in media, marketing, and other non-direct forms of communication. NVC has also been used in a range of different contexts, including prisoner reform , health science , social work , family relationships , business , education , raising children , and refugee support .
Uncertainties In The Study Of Biodiversity
Practitioners have labeled conservation biology a crisis science, meaning that in a context of great uncertainty, as with certain branches of medicine, the risks of inaction are greater than those of action. The question, what proportion of the worlds biodiversity can be lost before the planets human life-support systems collapse, cannot be answered with certainty given the current state of scientific knowledge. Waiting for that question to be answered with scientific certainty is to risk, quite literally, the end of the world as we know it. Generally, it is this sort of unanswered empirical, scientific question that conservation biologists refer to when writing of uncertainty. But there are also more fundamental ontological and ideological sources of uncertainty in understanding biodiversity. These include questions regarding how species are inventoried and classified, how well scientific models reflect reality, and the anthropogenic sources of biodiversity.
C.M. Beier, in, 2018
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The History And Distinctions Of Conservation Biology
In this chapter you will learn about:
The origins and history of conservation and conservation biology
The conceptual distinctions of conservation biology
Throughout most of human history, an interest in the conservation of plants and animals, much less a passionate dedication to it, has not been considered a normal way of thinking. This is not just the case in ordinary society, but even in the scientific community. Nevertheless, this different approach to the natural world, and to science, was given voice and direction at a remarkable meeting in 1978. In that year a group of academic scientists, zookeepers, and wildlife conservationists attended a banquet at the San Diego Wild Animal Park. There biologist Michael Soulé made an impassioned plea to his colleagues: with world extinction rates estimated to be at their highest levels in 65 million years, it was time for academics and conservationists to join forces to save threatened and endangered species . Soulés words sparked both controversy and criticism, but few were left unmoved. That meeting, now ambitiously called the First International Conference on Conservation Biology, led to new beginnings. A landmark publication that would become a foundational statement of the new disciplines identity, Conservation Biology: An Evolutionary-Ecological Perspective resulted, a new scientific organization, the Society for Conservation Biology, was created, and a new discipline, conservation biology, was born.
Groups Other Than Vertebrates
Serious concerns also being raised about taxonomic groups that do not receive the same degree of social attention or attract funds as the vertebrates. These include fungal , invertebrate and plantcommunities where the vast majority of biodiversity is represented. Conservation of fungi and conservation of insects, in particular, are both of pivotal importance for conservation biology. As mycorrhizal symbionts, and as decomposers and recyclers, fungi are essential for sustainability of forests. The value of insects in the biosphere is enormous because they outnumber all other living groups in measure of species richness. The greatest bulk of biomass on land is found in plants, which is sustained by insect relations. This great ecological value of insects is countered by a society that often reacts negatively toward these aesthetically ‘unpleasant’ creatures.
Another highlight that links conservation biology to insects, forests, and climate change is the mountain pine beetle epidemic of British Columbia, Canada, which has infested 470,000 km2 of forested land since 1999. An action plan has been prepared by the Government of British Columbia to address this problem.
A large proportion of parasite species are threatened by extinction. A few of them are being eradicated as pests of humans or domestic animals however, most of them are harmless. Threats include the decline or fragmentation of host populations, or the extinction of host species.
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Trailblazer In Conservation Biology
Left: Jana Wäldchen from the MPI for Biogeochemistry. Right: Georgina Mace.
The British biologist Georgina Mary Mace is considered a trailblazer in biodiversity and conservation. She spent more than three decades researching the causes and consequences of the loss of biodiversity. One focus of her work was on the effects of climate change on biodiversity and ecosystems, with a particular focus on policy and conservation decision-making. In 1988, Georgina Mace was commissioned to redesign the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species. Her approach was radical in many ways, as she was the first to develop scientific criteria based on population biology to standardize assessments. Today, the Red List is considered the most used and trusted source for assessing trends in global biodiversity. It has grown to include more than 120,000 species of animals, plants and fungi about 32,000 are currently listed as endangered.
Ms Wäldchen, what in particular fascinates you about Georgina Mace?
How important are Maces contributions to biodiversity, ecology, and conservation biology today?
In the Millennium Redoxsystem Assessment, published in 2001, Mace was coordinating lead author for the biodiversity section. The goal of this study was to quantify the rate of biodiversity loss and develop promising conservation measures, especially in light of the threat of climate change. However, the ongoing loss of biodiversity has not yet been halted.
What Is Conservation Biology
Conservation biology, said to be a “mission-oriented crisis discipline” , is a multidisciplinary science that has developed to address the loss of biological diversity. Conservation biology has two central goals: 1. to evaluate human impacts on biological diversity and 2. to develop practical approaches to prevent the extinction of species . The field seeks to integrate conservation policy with theories from the fields of ecology, demography, taxonomy, and genetics. The principles underlying each of these disciplines have direct implications for the management of species and ecosystems, captive breeding and reintroduction, genetic analyses, and habitat restoration.
The concept of conservation biology was introduced by Dasmann and Ehrenfeld . Soulé& Wilcox’s contribution, Conservation Biology: An Evolutionary Ecological Perspective, served as an impetus for the development of the discipline. Over the next six years, many scientists began to refer to themselves as conservation biologists. Conservation Biology: The Science of Scarcity and Diversity was published, a Society for Conservation Biology formed, and a journal was established .
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Use Of The Term Biology
The term biology in its modern sense appears to have been introduced independently by Thomas Beddoes ,Karl Friedrich Burdach , Gottfried Reinhold Treviranus and Jean-Baptiste Lamarck . The word itself appears in the title of Volume 3 of Michael Christoph Hanow‘s Philosophiae naturalis sive physicae dogmaticae: Geologia, biologia, phytologia generalis et dendrologia, published in 1766.
Before biology, there were several terms used for the study of animals and plants. Natural history referred to the descriptive aspects of biology, though it also included mineralogy and other non-biological fields from the Middle Ages through the Renaissance, the unifying framework of natural history was the scala naturae or Great Chain of Being. Natural philosophy and natural theology encompassed the conceptual and metaphysical basis of plant and animal life, dealing with problems of why organisms exist and behave the way they do, though these subjects also included what is now geology, physics, chemistry, and astronomy. Physiology and pharmacology were the province of medicine. Botany, Zoology, and Geology replaced natural history and natural philosophy in the 18th and 19th centuries before biology was widely adopted. To this day, “botany” and “zoology” are widely used, although they have been joined by other sub-disciplines of biology.
Status Of Selected Species
For a global overview of the management of aquatic genetic resources, responses to a set of questions were obtained in 1988 from nearly 40 scientists worldwide. They were contacted because of their knowledge of certain economically important aquatic animal species that were intensively managed and cultured or harvested . Their responses, even after 7 years, provide an overview of the awareness and attitudes toward conservation and management of aquatic animal genetic resources.
Table 4.3. Taxa included in responses to a questionnaire on aquatic genetic resources management.
Note: A = Programmes implemented for the express purpose of conserving genetic resources B = management programmes that provide some degree of genetic resource conservation, but that were not implemented explicitly for that purpose C = no conservation activity and R = research programmes addressing conservation of genetic resources.
Among the species surveyed, ecosystem maintenance is not a widely employed approach to managing aquatic genetic resources . Although many national parks and sanctuaries include aquatic habitats and provide some degree of gene conservation, the parks were not established, nor are they managed, for that purpose. One notable exception is Malawi Park and the associated Aquatic Zone, managed jointly by the Malawi Fisheries Department and the World Wide Fund for Nature for the purpose of in situ conservation of the habitat and indigenous cichlid species.
In , 1995
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Conservation Biology As A Profession
The Society for Conservation Biology is a global community of conservation professionals dedicated to advancing the science and practice of conserving biodiversity. Conservation biology as a discipline reaches beyond biology, into subjects such as philosophy, law, economics, humanities, arts, anthropology, and education. Within biology, conservation genetics and evolution are immense fields unto themselves, but these disciplines are of prime importance to the practice and profession of conservation biology.
Conservationists introduce bias when they support policies using qualitative description, such as habitat degradation, or healthyecosystems. Conservation biologists advocate for reasoned and sensible management of natural resources and do so with a disclosed combination of science, reason, logic, and values in their conservation management plans. This sort of advocacy is similar to the medical profession advocating for healthy lifestyle options, both are beneficial to human well-being yet remain scientific in their approach.