All is not loss: Plant Biodiversity in the Anthropocene

What are we humans doing to biodiversity in the Anthropocene? Causing Earth’s sixth mass extinction? (e.g. Barnosky et al. 2011 and others). How about something completely new to biodiversity on this planet? How about a massive globalization of species leading to the widespread emergence of novel ecosystems enriched with exotic and domesticated species (Hobbs et al. 2009). That’s the main […]

Naturalism in the Anthropocene

What happens when a talented science writer brings together a diverse group of ecologists and conservationists chasing a new vision of nature? If that writer is Emma Marris, the answer is: Rambunctious Garden– a new book to be released this September 1. Using her great gift for storytelling, Marris tours the reader through the contemporary ecological labyrinth that constitutes “saving […]

Botkin’s biosphere: ahead of its time

“We cannot expect nature to remain in a constant condition and thus provide us with a simple solution to the questions of what is “natural” and what is desirable.” (Botkin 1990, p 181) . Just one of many great thoughts in Daniel Botkin‘s 1990 classic: Discordant Harmonies: a New Ecology for the Twenty-first Century. I’d seen Botkin’s Environmental Science textbook, […]

On observing human nature

Ecologists are studying the least human parts of the most human ecosystems and the most human parts of the wildest ecosystems while favoring the Temperate zone over the Tropics (Nature News Article by Zoë Corbyn: “Ecologists shun the urban jungle”). That’s what we’ve learned since Laura Martin, a graduate student at Cornell’s Department of Natural Resources, came to me with […]

Inconvenient food for thought

“How do we feed a growing world without destroying the planet?” asks Jon Foley’s new 3 minute video (see below). It’s a great question. To get enough food for our existing billions, we already use about 40% of Earth’s ice-free land to produce crops and livestock. And we are using this land more intensively all the time, using up more […]

The Nature within now matters most

Should we conserve nature even if it is not wild? Humans have transformed 40% of earth’s ice-free land into crop fields, pastures and settlements, and have embedded another 37% within used and populated landscapes (anthromes). While 23% is still free of people and their use of land, these remaining wildlands are mostly found in the driest and coldest parts of […]

Globalization is good for the biosphere

Finally some good news about global change: globalization is making us cooperate! This is no minor discovery. Poverty, global warming, environmental degradation and biodiversity loss- all of these will only be solved when all of the people of all nations collaborate sustainably in doing so- though all these solutions must ultimately be local as well, because all global problems are […]

The human jungle

Are pristine rainforests the only ones that matter? We know that forests do change as they age, developing some unique characteristics when mature, and that some species cannot live outside of large swaths of ancient tropical forests. But what about the rest of tropical forests- the younger ones, the forests that people live in or have cut in recent decades […]

Remember the matrix! (no habitat is an island)

Conservation of biodiversity requires the conservation of habitat, and for a long time, this has meant preserving the largest possible “pristine” habitats and excluding humans. Now that humans have fragmented most of earth’s landscapes into mosaics that combine croplands, settlements, and remaining wilder and recovering habitats, the task of conserving or restoring large, unbroken wildlands is daunting, and often impossible. […]

Campfires degrade local ecosystems

Humans have been using fire since prehistory- indeed, it is one of our defining characteristics -distinguishing us from all other species. There is little doubt that burning of forests to attract game and later, to clear land for agriculture have had long-term global impacts on climate and the biosphere. There is also much evidence of serious ecological consequences to the […]