Understanding and predicting changes in ecosystems over time are necessary components of effective management. These tasks are not easily accomplished, however: multiple, interacting factors affect succession, and the resulting complexity is daunting. Science may never develop a comprehensive model of succession that is relevant to site-specific management. Such a model seems fundamental to effective management, and the absence of a model necessitates decision-making in the absence of complete scientific information. Thus, natural resource management is an art as well as a science; if management of natural resources is done with a conscience, it is among the most difficult of human endeavors. Gaps between science and management impose fundamental constraints on effective management, and closing the gap between these enterprises will enhance both of them.

Figure 4.10 Alteration of successional patterns by a keystone species: foraging and dam-building by beavers alter the landscape in ways that are beneficial to many species of wildlife but which are sometimes in conflict with humans. Photo by Stephen DeStefano.

Chapter 5 will identify sources of the divide between ecology and natural resource management, and establish a foundation for narrowing the divide (Figure 4.10).

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