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Grieving for the Past, Hoping for the Future

By Richard Hobbs

Many conservation scientists may be suffering from grief over the loss of species and habitats. If this is true, can an understanding of the grieving process be useful?

Richard Hobbs is a researcher with the Environmental Decisions Group. He is based at the University of Western Australia.

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I have been increasingly struck by how divisive conservation science can be. For instance, I have been involved recently in discussions on the issue of non-native/invasive species and novel ecosystems.

In the case of non-native species, it’s been suggested that the emphasis should be shifted from considering primarily a species’ origin to a focus on the impacts species have on the ecosystems in which they establish. This sounds reasonable but subsequent critiques of this view revealed a degree of alarm, almost outrage, at the argument.

There is also considerable disquiet about the notion of novel ecosystems in some quarters. Some believe the concept will adversely affect restoration practice, and open the way for less stringent targets.

In both cases there appear to be two very different sets of people. One holds firmly to established ideas and principles concerning invasive species and ecosystem management/restoration. They think that any departure from the core set of ideas will be detrimental to efforts to restore ecosystems. The other set argues that there has to be a move away from the more traditional perspectives toward one that recognises the changing situation facing us.

Both sets consist of smart, dedicated people seeking to improve conservation management, yet they now find themselves essentially “talking past each other” in stark...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.