OOS 13-8
Ecology in an anthropogenic biosphere: New tools for Anthropocene ecologists

Tuesday, August 11, 2015: 10:30 AM
310, Baltimore Convention Center
Erle Ellis, Department of Geography & Environmental Systems, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Baltimore, MD
Background/Question/Methods:   Human transformation of the biosphere is an unprecedented challenge for ecological science. It is no longer possible to understand, predict, or successfully manage ecological pattern, process or change across most of the biosphere without understanding the processes by which human societies reshape these over the long-term. Here new theoretical and practical tools are presented to help advance ecological science and conservation in an increasingly anthropogenic biosphere. Evolutionary theory on human sociocultural niche construction can explain both the long-term upscaling of human societies and their unprecedented transformative effects on biogeography, ecological succession, ecosystem processes, and the ecological patterns and processes of landscapes, biomes and the biosphere. This anthroecology theory yields empirically testable hypotheses on the forms and trajectories of long-term anthropogenic ecological change with significant implications across the sciences of ecology and conservation. Tools and strategies for investigating these hypotheses are presented together with conservation approaches aimed at engaging with, rather than against, the human societal processes that reshape ecology.


To investigate, understand, and address the ultimate causes of anthropogenic ecological change, not just the consequences, human sociocultural processes must become as much a part of ecological theory and practice as biological and geophysical processes are now. Anthroecology theory accomplishes this by introducing new theoretical frameworks based on anthroecosystems, anthrosequences, anthroecological succession, anthrobiogeography, ecological inheritance, and adaptations to human sociocultural niche construction by nonhuman species, while aligning with and integrating established theoretical frameworks including social-ecological systems, social metabolism, countryside biogeography, novel ecosystems and anthromes. To become more effective in investigating, understanding and forecasting ecological patterns and processes in an anthropogenic biosphere, research strategies must integrate anthropogenic historical baselines, dynamic and global social and environmental forcings, human observer networks, robotic observation systems (drones and sensor networks), sociocomputational tools for collaboration, and experimental and modeling frameworks that include human decision making. Effective conservation and restoration must embrace environmental and anthropogenic change and its transformative effects on ecosystems, habitats, and populations by focusing on guiding change towards better outcomes by codesigning, coimplementing and comonitoring these efforts together with stakeholders and by strategies that sustain evolutionary processes and avoid domesticating managed populations and ecosystems. As ecological science gains the capacity to better investigate, understand, and predict the ultimate causes, not just the consequences, of human transformation of the biosphere, ecology will better aid societies in sustaining nonhuman natures in a thriving anthropogenic biosphere that future generations across the world will be proud of.