Bridging The Public-Private Land Divide - Supporting Biodiversity Conservation and Ecosystem Services By Tapping The Ingenuity In Social-Ecological Systems
Thursday, August 8, 2013: 8:00 AM-11:30 AM
101A, Minneapolis Convention Center
Carol L. Williams
Protection of our global biological diversity is a fundamental goal of the conservation community and a major goal for many world governments. Nevertheless, with rising human populations and related global demand for land, water, and associated natural resources, humanity now directly influences up to 83% of the global terrestrial biosphere and consumes 20–40% of global net primary productivity. Many in the agricultural and conservation communities consider the increasing demands on our lands and increasing reliance on low-diversity/high-external-input farming methods as ever-growing threats to our natural resources. The response to these threats has been to sequester land in reserves as our primary means for protecting native biodiversity. The less than 15% of U.S. land currently in the highest protections category combined with the projected loss of species over the next 50 years underlies the growing realization that effective conservation at landscape scales will not occur solely through a reserve system. We need to operate under a different paradigm, one where an idealized reserve system would consist of natural areas linked by corridors of native habitats, facilitating the flow of genetic material and ecosystem processes. Further, the surrounding matrix of private lands would support or, at a minimum, not detract from the purposes of reserves and corridors.
Novel approaches to conservation that are both economically advantageous and ecologically based are needed to achieve landscape conservation goals. Increased multifunctionality of working lands and protected areas within working landscapes is a promising opportunity for social-ecological innovation towards meeting increased demands for land productivity while protecting conservation functions. Current efforts to provide for ecosystem services while contributing to profitable energy production in both ecologically and economically sustainable ways are in their infancy but show promise. Market based bioenergy produced from perennial biomass sources on private lands has potential to provide an innovative approach which bridges the economic needs of society and the ecological goals of the conservation community through the simultaneous delivery of products and habitat, connecting and augmenting protected areas within a landscape, and cultivating a renewable resource and conservation ethic within the landowner community. However, perennial bioenergy systems are not yet widespread and hence there is insufficient empirical evidence of economic and landscape-scale impacts and benefits. We will explore the potential of economically viable businesses and landuse practices in multifunctional landscapes designed for production of biomass supply while protecting and enhancing wildlife conservation and other ecosystem services.