What is Reconciliation Ecology?
Humans now occupy approximately 83% of earth's land surface (Sanderson et al. 2002). By occupy I don't mean that humans can actually be found living on every square meter of that 83%, but rather that humans have changed the land surface in some way that will affect the flora and fauna of the area. Most likely that number has already grown substantially since it was first estimated in 2002. This means that there is an ever dwindling amount of land left over for the millions of other species that inhabit our planet. Recognizing that this small amount of land left over was not nearly enough to sustain the majority of the species on our planet, Dr. Michael Rosenzweig developed the idea of reconciliation ecology. In his own words, "reconciliation ecology is the science of inventing, establishing and maintaining new habitats to conserve species diversity in places where people live, work and play."
How will we establish and maintain new habitats in our cities and towns? It will require a serious effort from both scientists and the general public. Scientists must determine the habitat requirements for species that might potentially be able to live with humans. After these requirements are determined it will be up to local governments and the general public make sure that these requirements are met.
It is certain that some species will never be able to live within human-occupied areas. For instance, many large mammal species that require large amounts of area to search for food will never be able to live within cities. The survival of these species depends on the maintenance and growth of the existing system of nature reserves. But many species may be able to thrive within cities if their habitat requirements are taken into consideration. For example, the habitat requirements of many arthropod species may not be difficult to achieve. A certain butterfly species might only require a population of a certain host plant species on which it's larvae can feed. The key to making these type of efforts work will often be cooperation among several neighbors or even entire neighborhoods because often one yard will not be large enough to maintain a population of any single species.
View An Interview with Ecologist Mike Rosenzweig: Exploring Reconciliation Ecology
Information on the Internet
Mike Rosenzweig's Home Pages:
Art Shapiro's Butterfly Site
This website describes over 34 years of data collected by Dr. Arthur Shapiro, professor of Evolution and Ecology at the University of California, Davis, in his continuing effort to regularly monitor butterfly population trends on a transect across central California. Ranging from the Sacramento River delta, through the Sacramento Valley and Sierra Nevada mountains, to the high desert of the western Great Basin, fixed routes at ten sites have been surveyed at approximately two-week intervals since as early as 1972. The sites represent the great biological, geological, and climatological diversity of central California.
Art Shapiro's Butterfly Site Education Modules
The Lepidopteran Detective, Lepidopteran Statistics I (basics), Lepidopteran Statistics II (advanced)
The Careful Foot, A site dedicated to reconciliation ecology
Information on the Internet
- Arthropods in Their Microhabitats American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) Get ready for an ant's eye-view of the world. Students learn techniques for observing, identifying, and classifying arthropods within a microhabitat; they'll also learn how to trap specimens, and how to kill and preserve specimens for further study. Students apply these skills to their own field sites as part of a study of local biodiversity, finding out exactly how biodiverse is each microhabitat within their site, and graphing their findings.
- Biodiversity Counts Welcome to Biodiversity Counts! This special resource collection takes students into the field and engages them in life science research: the inventory of plants and arthropods outside their own backdoors. Resources in this collection include lesson plans, profiles of scientists and Museum staff, essays, and Web-based interactives that help students explore, analyze, and apply their field observations.
- Ecology Explorers Doing Science in Your Schoolyard. Part of Arizona State University's Global Institute for Sustainability