Some Iconic Examples

The scope of 'applied ecology' is very broad indeed, possibly best illustrated by way of example. It is now widely accepted that the global climate is changing, that part of the cause is associated with industrial development, and that the impacts on human communities and the biota are potentially profound. Can we predict how natural ecosystems and the species they contain will respond, what have we done to constrain those responses (e.g., widespread fragmentation of habitat restricts range shifts), and what can we do to ameliorate the impacts of global climate change on the biota? It is in answering these questions that 'applied ecology' complements climate change studies by meteorologists, geographers, and geologists in other disciplines more focused on studying the direct impacts of climate change on human society.

Land clearing for forestry, pastoralism, and agriculture and aquatic habitat destruction through land reclamation and water resource development are arguably the most serious threats to biodiversity today. The long-term consequences of such activity is often not realized at the time it is undertaken, and there is no good appreciation of how far the system can be pushed in meeting production goals before both ecological and economic sustainability are compromised. When land use and water resource development have overshot sustainable levels for production and for other land-use values such as biodiversity, what can be done to restore those values (restoration) or bring about change leading to an acceptable and sustainable condition (rehabilitation)? Both restoration and rehabilitation are important components of 'applied ecology'.

Protected areas such as reserves and national parks make an important contribution to biodiversity conservation (Figure 1), but are they adequate to sustain biodiversity in the long term? The overall goals are to conserve species, their genetic variability and potential to respond to environmental change, and the natural ecosystem processes that provide the ecological context in which they have evolved and continue to evolve. Protected area management, the inventory of values and selection of reserves, their design, and the management of threats to their values such as feral animals and weeds, fire

Figure 1 Less than 1% of native temperate lowland grasslands of Australia remain intact, and that which remains is fragmented and under continual threat from agriculture, pastoralism and, in the Australian Capital Territory, urban expansion. Inset: The striped legless lizard (Delmaimpas), one of the many endangered species that rely on native grasslands. Photos: Sarah Sharp and Will Osborne.

Figure 1 Less than 1% of native temperate lowland grasslands of Australia remain intact, and that which remains is fragmented and under continual threat from agriculture, pastoralism and, in the Australian Capital Territory, urban expansion. Inset: The striped legless lizard (Delmaimpas), one of the many endangered species that rely on native grasslands. Photos: Sarah Sharp and Will Osborne.

management, impacts of human visitation are all topics addressed in part by 'applied ecology'.

Globalized trade and associated movement of people and products leads inevitably to unwanted introduction of exotic species, some of which become established in the wild well outside their natural range. This is of major concern because feral populations can be reservoirs for disease that impacts on agricultural production. They can wreak havoc on native species through predation (stoats in New Zealand and foxes in Australia), competition (rabbits in Australia), or interference (zebra mussels in North America). Can we predict which species are most likely to establish, which are likely to cause the greatest impact, model the spread of exotic species when they arrive, and control their spread, distribution, and abundance in order to manage their impacts once they are established?

These are examples of the broader societal context in which 'applied ecology' does its work. The discipline is generally seen to add value to restoration ecology, habitat management and rehabilitation, management of invasive species (both native and exotic), conservation biology, wildlife utilization, protected area management, and agroecosystem management. The discipline also makes important contributions to environmental forensics, landscape architecture, ecotourism, and fisheries.

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Homeowners Guide To Landscaping

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