BIOL 398N Week 4 Topic 1: Wildlife Restoration & the Land Ethic

I think that no matter what people should continue to try to save wildlife who are threatened due to climate change to new habitat. I almost feel like the reason wildlife is being threatened is due to so many people on the earth and more people means more pollution and more land needed for homes. I think it becomes changing to try to figure out which animal is more important than the other. I believe that we should not have to pick because all animals are important. I think it’s super sad that animals like caribou are dying because of lack of habitat. I think it’s a challenging situation because if they move them, people might not care about that habitat anymore since they are not there and then end up destroying it completely.

I do not think that Leopold’s Monument to a Pigeon should be taken down because it gives awareness to all the animals that once existed in this world and are no longer here. I do think this creates awareness to realize to take care of the wildlife today because wants there gone, they do not come back, like the pigeon. I do think this is like humans, we give monuments to humans that were alive, and we do not get rid of them, so why would we get rid of a monument that creates awareness.

I do think animals should be restored because every animal has an impact on the environment. When species and habitats are being lost it causes a process called biodiversity to become lost, which can result in threated food supply, jobs, economies, and human health (Weforum, 2022). I do think that being able to restore animals could happen, but more people need to work together to save their habitats and realize the importance of each animal. I think it’s easy for people not to care because it’s out of sight and out of mind. Animals that are in a rainforest that are never seen make it difficult for people to miss them.

Reference:

8 endangered species that are being reintroduced around the world. World Economic Forum. (2022). Retrieved November 14, 2022, from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2022/08/endangered-species-reintroduced-biodiversity/

This week, our readings and viewings are examining conflicts over wildlife and land use, and how legislation and policy can help us manage and conserve wildlife & their habitats. Too often, conflicts aren’t resolved in a timely way, and considerable damage has already been done. Except in the case of extinction, that doesn’t necessarily mean nothing can be done except let nature heal itself if possible. Instead, there’s what some people call an “optimistic” science of restoration ecology to turn to. Of all Aldo Leopold’s accomplishments, as a pioneer in wilderness preservation, in the science of wildlife management, and the practice of wildlife management, the one that may have the most lasting value is his founding work in restoration ecology.

You already know some about Leopold’s sand county farm, where he devoted himself and his family to restoring the plants and wildlife that lived there before it was abused by get-rich-and-get-out farming techniques. But as a University of Wisconsin professor, he had the idea of creating a research site in Madison where all the original ecotypes in that area would be preserved or restored for research and educational purposes. The result is the thriving University of Wisconsin Arboretum. Click on the Research tab for a glimpse into the many kinds of scientific work that have grown out of Leopold’s vision, including many studies that will help as the world tries to adapt to our changing climate. A more philosophic approach to discussing Leopold’s work at the Arboretum is concisely presented in a cartoon discussion of his work at the Arboretum & what restoration projects mean to human relationships with the natural world.

But as scientists and the scientifically-informed work to adapt to coming changes, what will guide us in making the tough decisions ahead? Can Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic (in this week’s resources) help?

Let’s take just one issue—should humans assist wildlife threatened by climate change to move to new habitat? Some species, such as mountain-dwelling pikas, are already moving to higher altitudes. But eventually, they will run out of mountain. Should we spend scarce resources to move the animals to still-cold locations? What about the animals they might be displacing, the ecosystems their presence would change? Should a threatened species be bred in captivity in the hope that someday suitable habitat will be found or re-created? How much effort should be invested in constructing or maintaining wildlife corridors, open lands that could allow threatened species to reach their own habitats? How much of our shared resources should be directed at research to figure out all these potentially conflicting, clearly complex issues? Who gets to decide which species we save and which simply flicker out? Here’s an article about the decision-making that went into ongoing efforts to move the last woodland caribou in the US to a different herd, since climate change and other disturbances had wiped out all of her own group: https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/01/contiguous-united-states-just-lost-its-last-wild-caribou?utm_source=6&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=AAAS—The-American-Association-for-the-Advancement-of-Science-%28AAAS.Science%29&utm_term=WebEd&utm_content=AAAS&fbclid=IwAR18BAT-SE0bJrpNjKCW9m-NucXOWm_GmpypSQqnvrNsh5fz9cgtMGag2KE .

And in a new twist to the restoration management question, should extinct species be revived when technology permits? Would the world be better if Leopold’s Monument to a Pigeon could be taken down—because pigeons once again do darken the sky? (see video in last week’s Topic 1 discussion). Or is the threat of extinction a little like some say about individual human death—something that focuses us to take care of what we have because it won’t last forever?

Please think about how Leopold valued wildlife and land while reading his essay “Thinking Like a Mountain” (Course Resources). For additional though not required insights, listen to this audio reflection on another famous Leopold essay, “The Land Ethic.”

And then think about wolves or another iconic animal that is absent from the natural world where most humans live. Applying what you’ve learned in this course, do you think that animals should be restored? Why or why not? Could it happen or not? Is the land ethic a helpful guide to such practical everyday decision-making in your relationship with wildlife and the natural world?

After reading “Thinking like a Mountain” you may enjoy this video (Optional):

 

As always in Week 4 Topic 1, post if possible by Saturday, 11:59 pm. Respond to at least two classmates, and all posts due by Tuesday 11:59 pm. (Note that Week 4 Topic 2 deadline for the main post is Sunday!)

As I ponder the question of animal restoration and whether or not it should be done, I can’t help but take a different approach to the dilemma. Wildlife is undoubtedly important to the ecosystem, but what’s even more important is the habitat they live in. As I’ve been studying ecology for the last two years, independently and academically, there is an aspect to wildlife conservation that get’s overlooked often: the conservation of plants. Restoring habitat and plant communities and building up the ecosystems that have been lost from the bottom up should be the main/first focus of conservation efforts. A journal article discussing this topic states “…plants are becoming increasingly rare around the world, threatened by habitat loss, fragmentation, climate change, and the continued introduction of new invasive species”[I]. Plants are the foundation of our ecosystems and although they don’t get the press they deserve, they are vital. For me, bringing back extinct species is out of the question until there are adequate resources for them to use. Furthermore, once the process of habitat restoration begins, wildlife populations will begin to increase without human intervention. Animals are very resilient and if given the fair chance, their populations will increase without the need for captive breeding and releasing.

At risk animals are a different story, because of a simple fact; they still exist. Species that are at risk should be given the highest priority in conservation efforts alongside habitat restoration. I believe that Aldo Leopold had a very insightful view on habitat restoration, and I believe he knew of the importance of not just protecting wildlife, but protecting plants and habitat as well. In his essay the Land Ethic, he explains the need for humans to live alongside wildlife, and the need for awareness of one’s surroundings. I think it’s still relevant today now more than ever. There is a great disconnect between people and the wild, and as he states in his essay, we have an obligation not only to ourselves but to the wilderness around us – to protect the wild is protecting ourselves. In the end, plant conservation should be the main priority when thinking about wildlife conservation, the other way around simply doesn’t work.

Source:

[I] Havens, K., Kramer, A. T., & Guerrant, E. O. (2014). Getting Plant Conservation Right (or Not): The Case of the United States. International Journal of Plant Sciences, 175(1), 3–10. https://doi.org/10.1086/674103