vrijdag 14 december 2012

Biodiversity in the Anthropocene

Following up on some links from an earlier post the following papers by Erle Ellis & various colleagues came up: 

1- Putting people in the map: anthropogenic biomes of the world (2008, PDF)

2- Anthropogenic transformation of the biomes, 1700 to 2000 (2010, PDF)

3- Anthropogenic transformation of the terrestrial biosphere (2011, PDF)

4- All Is Not Loss: Plant Biodiversity in the Anthropocene (2012, read this for a better understanding)
That's is a lot to take in. On one level the work is quantifying (with a lot of maps) "anthropogenic transformation of the terrestrial biosphere". On another level it uses the data to make statements on the need for new conceptual categories of land use.
Between 1700 and 2000, the terrestrial biosphere made the critical transition from mostly wild to mostly anthropogenic, passing the 50% mark early in the 20th century. At present, and ever more in the future, the form and process of terrestrial ecosystems in most biomes will be predominantly anthropogenic, the product of land use and other direct human interactions with ecosystems. Ecological research and conservation efforts in all but a few biomes would benefit from a primary focus on the novel remnant, recovering and managed ecosystems embedded within used lands.
But it is not all bad news:
Anthropogenic global changes in biodiversity are generally portrayed in terms of massive native species losses or invasions caused by recent human disturbance. Yet these biodiversity changes and others caused directly by human populations and their use of land tend to co-occur as long-term biodiversity change processes in the Anthropocene. Here we explore contemporary anthropogenic global patterns in vascular plant species richness at regional landscape scales by combining spatially explicit models and estimates for native species loss together with gains in exotics caused by species invasions and the introduction of agricultural domesticates and ornamental exotic plants. The patterns thus derived confirm that while native losses are likely significant across at least half of Earth's ice-free land, model predictions indicate that plant species richness has increased overall in most regional landscapes, mostly because species invasions tend to exceed native losses. 
There is a tool:
Anthropogenic species richness (ASR) results when humans interact with native patterns of species richness. Within a given area, ASR can be quantified as the sum of native species richness (N), anthropogenic loss of native species (ASL) and anthropogenic species increase (ASI). 
And there is a philosophical point:
Anthropogenic biomes point to a necessary turnaround in ecological science and education, especially for North Americans. Beginning with the first mention of ecology in school, the biosphere has long been depicted as being composed of natural biomes, perpetuating an outdated view of the world as “natural ecosystems with humans disturbing them”. Although this model has long been challenged by ecologists, ... it remains the mainstream view. Anthropogenic biomes tell a completely different story, one of “human systems, with natural ecosystems embedded within them”. This is no minor change in the story we tell our children and each other. Yet it is necessary for sustainable management of the biosphere in the 21st century. Anthropogenic biomes clearly show the inextricable intermingling of human and natural systems almost everywhere on Earth’s terrestrial surface, demonstrating that interactions between these systems can no longer be avoided in any substantial way. Moreover, human interactions with ecosystems mediated through the atmosphere (eg climate change) are even more pervasive and are disproportionately altering the areas least impacted by humans directly (polar and arid lands).
And there are also catch phrases:
The big picture: all is change
All is not loss: sustaining biodiversity in anthromes
The anthropogenic melting pots

Anthropogenic succession: thinning globally, enriching locally

Ecologists go home!

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