Managed, mended, supported: How habitat conservation and restoration function as elements of landscape stewardship

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Even if there are arguments over when it started, there is broad agreement that we are now living in a new epoch - the Anthropocene - whose main characteristic is rapid, often unpredictable, change (Ellis et al. 2013). The arguments for climate change as a key driver for ecosystem and landscape change are familiar and well-rehearsed. Rockström et al. (2009) discuss a wider range of environmental parameters causing change in the Anthropocene, including ‘loss’ of biodiversity. While there is species loss, it is part of a much broader set of biodiversity changes involving genes, species and ecosystems, with both gains and losses. Nonetheless, continued overall actual or perceived negative change in biodiversity suggests failures in current biodiversity/landscape policy and practice. Folke et al. (2011) advocate ‘planetary stewardship’ in the Anthropocene, observing (p. 719): ‘Tipping points and thresholds highlight the importance of understanding and managing resilience. New modes of flexible governance are emerging. A central challenge is to reconnect these efforts to the changing preconditions for societal development as active stewards of the Earth System.' In response to growing concerns about human-wrought ecosystem change, in September 2009 the United Kingdom Secretary of State for the Environment established a small group to examine and report on the state of England’s habitat conservation sites. The aim was to investigate if those sites were capable of responding and adapting to the challenges of climate and other global change pressures. The group’s response (Lawton et al. 2010, p. 72) argued a step change in nature conservation in England was needed: from; ‘trying to hang on to what we have, to one of large-scale habitat restoration and recreation, underpinned by the re-establishment of ecological processes and ecosystem services, for the benefits of both people and wildlife.' Six years on the need for that step change is more urgent than ever and clearly, nature conservation is not currently effective enough to achieve earth system stewardship. However, simply adding new protected sites will not deliver robust habitat (and therefore species and gene) conservation. This is true even if green infrastructure (connectivity) is part of wider landscape management. Lawton et al. (2010) used a jingoistic four-word summary - More, Bigger, Better, Joined. This formulation was simple but perhaps wrongheaded.




Bridgewater, P. (2017). Managed, mended, supported: How habitat conservation and restoration function as elements of landscape stewardship. In The Science and Practice of Landscape Stewardship (pp. 202–218). Cambridge University Press.

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