Archive for September, 2012

Upcoming Paper on Ecosystem Services and Resilience

Another collaborative paper now available is entitled “Toward Principles for Enhancing the Resilience of Ecosystem Services” (see full citation at the bottom).  This is a paper (the wonderful Oonsie Biggs as lead author) that the Resilience Alliance Young Scholars network has had accepted to the Annual Review of Environment and Resources to be in print in November.  It’s currently available via the Annual Review’s online service.

The paper provides a great overview of key concepts inherent to resilience thinking and working toward sustainability.  For those interested in the academic literature on the resilience of social-ecological systems, this provides an easy entry point to learn about several key components of resilience – the need for diversity (social and ecological), the importance of slow variables (and what that means), taking a complex adaptive systems approach (and what that means), and several others.

It also provides a nice means of taking a first look at ecosystem services and what these are.  The paper avoids direct discussions of trade-offs among ecosystem services (like agriculture for food vs. biofuels or setting aside land for conservation vs. for provision), but these conflicts are outlined in detailed in another paper (“The Importance of Social Drivers in the Resilient Provision of Ecosystem Services” in Global Environmental Change).  

The full citation is Biggs, R. et al. 2012. “Toward Principles for Enhancing the Resilience of Ecosystem Services”, Annual Review of Environment and Resources 37:3.1-28.

Cool new paper on ecological modeling

Earlier this year, three collaborators (Kenny Salau, Jacopo Baggio, and Marco Janssen) and I published a paper on modeling large-scale conservation.  Rather, the paper shows the results of an agent-based model of two species (predator and prey) that move across a simple fragmented landscape.  To put into simple English, we throw a bunch of predators (think lion) and prey (think impala) randomly across a landscape.  In this landscape, they can stay on a patch of habitat or move to another one.  The predators move if there aren’t enough prey around.  The prey move if there are too many predators or too many other prey.  We vary the ease of moving between the patches (their level of connectivity).  We also vary a number of other parameters of the model to see what happens if we look at different types of animals, different habitats, etc.

Basically what we see is that the goal isn’t only to continually increase connectivity.  This goes against some popular conservation thinking, where more is always better.  Instead, we know that there may be problems as we increase connectivity.  These problems may come from invasive species, the spread of disease, etc.  But they may also be internal dynamics from the system.  For instance, at high levels of connectivity, the populations of the separate patches may start to act like one big patch.  Local die-offs may lead to system-wide extinctions.  This is a central challenge to conservationists.

At this point, the model is purely ecological, but the broader research program is about how conservation planners and land managers interact to facilitate connectivity on a patchy landscape.  We have recently finished a paper that is under review that describes the interactions of a manager and how they can influence this system.  More on that in the future.

The current paper is:

Salau, Kehinde, Michael Schoon, Jacopo Baggio and Marco Janssen. 2012. “Varying Effects of Connectivity and Dispersal on Interacting Species Dynamics”, Ecological Modeling 242: 81-91.