Prospects for sustainability of biodiversity based on conservation biology and US Forest Service approaches to ecosystem management
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Ecosystem management involves long-term management of whole ecosystems, across political boundaries as necessary, to sustain ecosystem integrity. The conservation biology view of ecosystem management tends to be biocentric, placing primary emphasis on sustaining the integrity of natural ecosystem processes and native species. The US Forest Service favors an anthropocentric approach in which an array of public preferences will determine the extent to which utilitarian (commodities, recreation, etc.) and natural (biodiversity) values will be emphasized in defining and sustaining ecosystem integrity. Conservation biologists have suggested creation of a national network of regional reserve systems, with core areas, buffer zones, and landscape linkages, to help maintain biodiversity, while the US Forest Service is promoting the use of timber management and other forest practices to mimic historic biodiversity patterns across the landscape. These ideas are not mutually exclusive, could potentially be complementary, and would be long-term, very challenging efforts. Political support for implementation of these ideas is uncertain. Legislative proposals to transfer large amounts of multiple-use, public lands to state and/or private ownership, if enacted, are likely to render these approaches ineffective. Compelling scientific evidence from conservation biology argues that failure to apply some sort of ecosystem management to the remaining natural and seminatural parts of the US landscape will result in continued loss of natural biodiversity, eventually leading to a 'tragedy of the biodiversity commons'. Failure to support the present federal land management goal of providing publicly desired resources while sustaining ecosystem integrity can be expected to have negative effects on ecosystem services, regardless of the emphasis placed on naturalness. Broad legislative guidelines favoring maintenance of natural biodiversity, but allowing a much greater contribution of local communities to land management planning, offers the potential for sustaining both ecosystem integrity and local/regional economies. This approach is risky with respect to sustaining natural ecosystem integrity but can, perhaps, be guided by knowledge obtained from adaptive management. Prospects for success would be strengthened by financial incentives to nongovernmental entities for protection of natural biodiversity, concern for private property rights, and by different kinds of stakeholders who share a common ethical and/or cultural concern for the natural environment of their communities.
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