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Ecol Appl. 2010 Oct;20(7):1801-4.

Move it or lose it? The ecological ethics of relocating species under climate change.

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  • 1School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona 85287-4501, USA.


Managed relocation (also known as assisted colonization, assisted migration) is one of the more controversial proposals to emerge in the ecological community in recent years. A conservation strategy involving the translocation of species to novel ecosystems in anticipation of range shifts forced by climate change, managed relocation (MR) has divided many ecologists and conservationists, mostly because of concerns about the potential invasion risk of the relocated species in their new environments. While this is indeed an important consideration in any evaluation of MR, moving species across the landscape in response to predicted climate shifts also raises a number of larger and important ethical and policy challenges that need to be addressed. These include evaluating the implications of a more aggressive approach to species conservation, assessing MR as a broader ecological policy and philosophy that departs from longstanding scientific and management goals focused on preserving ecological integrity, and considering MR within a more comprehensive ethical and policy response to climate change. Given the complexity and novelty of many of the issues at stake in the MR debate, a more dynamic and pragmatic approach to ethical analysis and debate is needed to help ecologists, conservationists, and environmental decision makers come to grips with MR and the emerging ethical challenges of ecological policy and management under global environmental change.

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