British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium

Ecosystem restoration versus reclamation : the value of managing for biodiversity Burton, Philip J.


Recent public demands for the preservation of biological diversity are often using this concept as a surrogate for the value of rare species, nature preserves, and wilderness. But diversity per se can have value in intensively managed and artificial ecosystems as well, suggesting that maybe we should practice ecosystem "restoration" more than just land reclamation". If a plant community is to be long-lived or self-sustaining, then natural diversity and processes provide a useful model to follow. Information on the value of biodiversity can be divided into utilitarian, ecological and ethical/aesthetic categories. All arguments must consider issues of sampling and management scales, the separate richness and equitability components of diversity, and natural trends in diversity. Utilitarian arguments center on the fact that we cannot now identify which individual species are critical to ecosystem sustainabiliry, nor which individual species may be useful to humans in the future. Additional ecological values of diversity stem from the unsuspected complexity of ecosystems. Many individual species hold "keystone" roles in defining overall system behaviour, affecting both stability and productivity. Additional human-centered and biocentric concerns also argue for the preservation and enhancement of biological diversity in managed as well as natural landscapes. Efforts to restore biological diversity provide a useful means of experimenting with the factors controlling ecosystem struture and function.

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