Ecology in 2020?

Today’s issue of Nature rings in the New Decade with an interesting article on where Science needs to be in 2020. With respect to Ecology, Robert Holt makes the following observation:

A key task will be to predict and mitigate this loss of biodiversity and the degradation of ecosystem function. One step is to gauge the resilience of ecological networks such as food webs — in particular, their capacity to withstand disturbance and species loss. This will require insights from many disciplines. Stable isotope analysis and genetic bar-coding should provide a clearer picture of who eats whom in a community.

Um. I think that describes my research program. Except the whole isotope/bar-coding thing. Damn. Add that to the list of things I need to learn, as right now, figuring out who-eats-who can be a real show-stopper! But overall, I guess I’m on the right track. Ha!

4 thoughts on “Ecology in 2020?

  1. I do have an honest-non trick- question for Dr Holt, and you, for that matter. Is it not gauging the resilience of ecosystems a non sequitur?? Have you been at Mt St Helens lately?? Examine this :”The most significant finding was that ecological systems are so resilient,” said Dale, former principal investigator of Earthwatch’s The Recovery of Mount St. Helens project. “In some parts of the devastation zone at Mount St. Helens, organisms survived”. I mean: is this really necessary? I dont doubt your best intentions but maybe we should refocus resilience science towards human resilience today??

  2. Sure, ecosystems adapted for disturbance are likely to be quite resilient. The questions are 1) what about non-adapted systems and 2) are even adapted systems resilient to disturbances that they have never faced before in their evolutionary history? Regarding your second point, I think given the goods and services provided by many natural ecosystems, the resilience of natural systems contributes directly to the resilience of human societies to environmental disturbances – think Katrina and coastal wetlands, for example.

  3. I would suggest that the resilience of natural systems-humans included- CONTRIBUTED to human resilience. Human resilience is beyond, now, the benifecent tresholds imposed by ecological science. Think of the Artic-people wont die but their lifeways irreversibly transformed- wetlands elsewhere, oceans and everything else in irreversible breakdown mode. Is it not that the global "human ecosystem condition" is beyond resilience and closer to survival.(not sure whether survival is a resilience subset?)

  4. Sure, ecosystems adapted for disturbance are likely to be quite resilient. The questions are 1) what about non-adapted systems and 2) are even adapted systems resilient to disturbances that they have never faced before in their evolutionary history? Regarding your second point, I think given the goods and services provided by many natural ecosystems, the resilience of natural systems contributes directly to the resilience of human societies to environmental disturbances – think Katrina and coastal wetlands, for example.

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