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Trends Ecol Evol. 2014 Oct;29(10):548-53. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2014.07.006. Epub 2014 Aug 1.

A critique of the 'novel ecosystem' concept.

Author information

1
University of Florida, Department of Biology, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA; Organization for Tropical Studies, 410 Swift Avenue, Box 90630, Durham, NC 27705, USA. Electronic address: carolinamurcia01@gmail.com.
2
Centre d'Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive (CEFE); Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) Unité Mixte de Recherche 5175, Campus CNRS, 1919 Route de Mende, Montpellier, 34293, France; Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Boulevard, St Louis, MO 63110, USA.
3
Departamento de Ciencias Naturales y Matemáticas, Pontificia Universidad Javeriana Seccional Cali, Cali, Colombia.
4
Centre d'Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive (CEFE); Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) Unité Mixte de Recherche 5175, Campus CNRS, 1919 Route de Mende, Montpellier, 34293, France.
5
Kings Park and Botanic Garden, West Perth 6005, WA, Australia; School of Plant Biology, The University of Western Australia, Nedlands 6009, WA, Australia.
6
University of Tennessee, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Knoxville, TN 37996, USA.

Abstract

The 'novel ecosystem' concept has captured the attention of scientists, managers, and science journalists, and more recently of policymakers, before it has been subjected to the scrutiny and empirical validation inherent to science. Lack of rigorous scrutiny can lead to undesirable outcomes in ecosystem management, environmental law, and policy. Contrary to the contentions of its proponents, no explicit, irreversible ecological thresholds allow distinctions between 'novel ecosystems' and 'hybrid' or 'historic' ones. Further, there is no clear message as to what practitioners should do with a 'novel ecosystem'. In addition, ecosystems of many types are being conserved, or restored to trajectories within historical ranges of variation, despite severe degradation that could have led to their being pronounced 'novel'.

KEYWORDS:

ecological restoration; ecological thresholds; global change; novel ecosystems

PMID:
25088744
DOI:
10.1016/j.tree.2014.07.006
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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