Managing For Biodiversity

Biodiversity loss is a global change with consequences that may exceed those of climate change.

Turner, Woody, 2014, Sensing Biodiversity, Science, vol.346, issue 6207:301-2

The techniques and methods of conservation in Maine have resulted in remarkable work. They have preserved unique landscapes. But now we must add to that arsenal, preserving unique species. And this means focusing on preserving a wide range of habitats.

We are in a crisis situation with the decline of bird populations. And they are the indicators of ecosystem distress. Which effects human populations.

There has not been one acre of Maine’s land that has not experienced the impact of human disturbance. Mankind since the very beginning have been modifying their environment. But only in the last 200 hundred years has the destruction of habitats and biodiversity been on such a macro scale.

Human societies simplify the environment to increase the productivity of it and to manage the ecosystem services. They destroy the complexity of the biodiversity in an area and establish control over habitat processes. Dams are built. Land is cleared for agriculture. Forests are managed by herbicides to favor certain species. Non-native species are introduced. Harbors are built, seabeds are dredged. Consequently, there is no way to go back to the biodiversity of the pre-European environment no matter how great the conservation efforts. Human interference has been so powerful that saving aspects of nature requires continued human management of habitat forms but now for biodiversity. It is clear that here in Maine there are many living forms that are threatened. If action is not taken, they will become extinct. And this may very well harm the continuing productivity of Maine’s soils, forests, and waters.

We have really screwed up the environment. Can we now unscrew it? Conservation must now add to its work of establishing eco-reserves and other forms of conserving. It must include in its focus preserving and managing a mosaic of habitats that will provide safe harbor for our most threatened life forms. And this means that since biodiversity is dynamic, as it never finishes its striving for increased complexity, conservation will have to manage habitats for various levels of complexity, from old growth forests to mid successional forests, etc. And as habitats move from one state to another, as for example from new successional to late successional, new habitats have to be developed to replace those that have been maturing.

For example, the Olive-sided Flycatcher prefers openings and edges. It responds favorably to some logging and fires if sufficient snags and residual trees are left to provide nesting and foraging habitat and singing perches. The standard model of conservation has been very successful in preserving landscapes. But with the loss of species, with threats to ecosystems, there are new challenges for conservationists. The new approach needs to be focused on habitat and biodiversity preservation.

I believe, and perhaps many of you do as well, that this new approach to conservation has greater importance and significance than simply protecting Maine’s treasures. I believe our work will have impacts far downstream from the mountains, which are the source of water, birds, insects, animals. And this work will not only preserve species, but also the beauty that all of us enjoy and need to make us function well and productively.

— G.N.A., Founder