SYMP 17-5 - Decide they must: How natural resource and protected area managers construe novel ecosystems

Thursday, August 11, 2016: 10:10 AM
Grand Floridian Blrm C, Ft Lauderdale Convention Center
Stephen D. Murphy, School of Environment, Resources & Sustainability, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON, Canada
Background/Question/Methods . The novel ecosystems framework can reframe the objectives and actions surrounding restoration ecology away from the pertinacious, almost Clementsian notions of endpoints and historical reference states. It acknowledges that anthropogenic disturbance is often at a pace and extent that some ecosystems have crossed an irreversible threshold.  Restoration ecology within irreversibly altered and novel ecosystems requires a different set of interventions, anticipations, and even triage of ecosystem function and biota.  Managers of natural resources and protected areas work with ecosystems already difficult to restore and now subject to larger scale disruptions like anthropogenic climate change or long-term, massive invasions by exotic species.  I examined (a) if managers consider novel ecosystems to be a useful conceptual/theoretical framework, (b) if they used/would use the framework of novel ecosystems to direct their management plans and actions, and (c) if they had the ability or interest in testing whether an ecosystem was novel, and (d) if there was evidence the novel ecosystems framework was ecologically beneficial.  I addressed the questions by using key informant interviews and testing restoration outcomes with (i) 92 managers of protected areas at the municipal, provincial, or national level and (ii) 71 managers of natural resource ecosystems in Canada.

Results/Conclusions . 7 of the protected areas and 4 of the natural resource managers expressed interest in explicit testing for novel ecosystems;  an additional 72/92 and 62/71 managers considered their ecosystem to be novel already and did not consider explicit testing necessary for their purposes. 89/92 and 64/71 managers considered the novel ecosystem framework to be relevant to their needs. 28/92 and 17/71 of the managers were already using the novel ecosystems framework.  Managers strongly stated that the novel ecosystems framework would be the second choice - after conservation and preventative planning and management. The novel ecosystems framework was described as a useful and realistic means of restoring appropriate ecological function and biota given limited resources and extreme local and cross-scalar disturbance. I was able to compare work from 18 managers where the novel ecosystems framework was used vs. ones where historical references were used vs. still-degraded controls.  Using effect size measures, the novel ecosystems framework restored more ecological function and biota than the other two; while recognizing differential objectives, managers considered the novel ecosystems framework to be successful.