Kate Sherren

Landscapes - People - Global change

Tag: Ecosystem services (page 2 of 3)

Lab scholarship news

Great news in this scholarship season for my group: Incoming MES applicant Farzana Karim and Ruoqian Wang both won Masters Nova Scotia Graduate Scholarships (NSGS; $10K p.a. renewable x 2), also held by second-year MES Yan Chen. Incoming Interdisciplinary PhD applicant Kate Thompson won a PhD-level NSGS ($15K p.a. renewable x 4). Beyond that, first-year MES Taylor Cudney has won a federal SSHRC graduate scholarship to support her second year ($17.5K). This is all great news for these well-deserving recipients, and for lab finances. Research in coastal climate adaptation, agricultural land fragmentation, urban ecosystem services, and energy landscape research are all getting a welcome boost. Brava to all.

A lovely day in the Musquodoboit

Cows grazing along the Old Guysborough Road.

Cows grazing along the Old Guysborough Road.

I had a great day today at a workshop organized by the Nova Scotia Eastern Habitat Joint Venture folks, who administer the North American Waterfowl Management Plan activities in this region. Many of my existing collaborators on farm wetland and biodiversity issues across government and NGOs were present, to share our work and discuss common interests in the Musquodoboit River area. It was a beautifully sunny morning, on a warmer than average day, and so wonderful to get out of town and into the countryside. Great to be feeling a growing interest in social science within the conservation and agricultural science community.

Marginal land survey at ASFWB

Today and tomorrow, Simon Greenland-Smith is in Cape Breton for the 52nd meeting of the Atlantic Society of Fish and Wildlife Biologists. He is talking about the Marginal Land survey, which is currently winding up with a ~37% response rate, remarkable for a summer/fall survey of farmers and above our goal of 33%. In the past few years, I or individuals from my lab have comprised the only social science contributions to this event, but this year I note a presentation about a Bird Studies Canada survey on farmer perceptions of aerial insectivores. Many other presentations relate to the Big Meadow Bog restoration project at Brier Island, and its various elements.

Silvo-Pastoral World Congress

The Silvo-Pastoral World Congress is happening next September in Evora, Portugal.

The Silvo-Pastoral World Congress is happening next September in Evora, Portugal.

I am co-convening a session at next year’s World Congress on Silvo-Pastoral Systems. I love interdisciplinary problem-based conferences like this one, which is focussed on “systems which combine trees with animal grazing, in combination with crops, in regions of the world with two seasons, one dry and one wet, and thus drought as a limiting factor”. My Australian work on scattered trees fits in here, but also new work on holistic management.  I am co-convening a theme on ‘large scale trends: assessing and mapping at the regional and global scale‘ with Guillermo Martinez-Pastur from Argentina, but there are many other themes, including on socio-economics. We are looking for a diversity of landscapes to be represented. Abstracts are closing November 30th. Please pass this on to anyone you think may be interested.

Feral is as feral does

The Canadian edition of Monbiot's book Feral has a new introduction with harsh words for Canada's environmental trajectory.

The Canadian edition of Monbiot’s book Feral has a new introduction with harsh words for Canada’s environmental trajectory.

Few books have stimulated so much thinking, and coalesced so many of my existing ideas, as George Monbiot’s book Feral: Rewilding the Land, the Sea and Human Life. I owe a debt to Simon Greenland-Smith, who gave it to me after his thesis defense as a thank you. Monbiot makes a many-faceted argument for re-wilding of a new (and sometimes radical) kind. He is not for restoration that turns back the clock, holding a landscape in a nostalgic level of human modification, suppressing succession or ignoring the changing global conditions. Rather, he’d like to see us take a chance and remove such pressures and see what new ecosystems emerge (barring introducing an elephant or two). In his own words (p. 10):

…I have no desire to try to re-create the landscapes or ecosystems that existed in the past, to reconstruct – as if that were possible – primordial wilderness. Rewilding, to me, is about resisting the urge to control nature and allowing it to find its own way. It involves reintroducing absent plants and animals (and in a few cases culling exotic species which cannot be contained by native wildlife), pulling down the fences, blocking the drainage ditches, but otherwise stepping back. At sea, it means excluding commercial fishing and other forms of exploitation. The ecosystems that result are best described not as wilderness, but as self-willed: governed not by human management but their own processes. Rewilding has no end points, no view about what a ‘right’ ecosystem or a ‘right’ assemblage of species looks like. … It lets nature decide.

The ecosystems that will emerge, in our changed climates, on our depleted soils, will not be the same as those which prevailed in the past. … While conservation often looks to the past, rewilding of this kind looks to the future.

The Common Agricultural Policy is given scathing treatment, for incentivizing continued grazing and mowing land even where production is not needed or even productive. He lambasts conservation groups for maintaining grazing in parks to retain the species that existed under that pressure. He draws on shifting baseline syndrome, which we recently used in the Mactaquac Dam case work, to reveal the landscape impacts of otherwise benign generational forgetting. He describes re-wilding as re-introducing humans to landscape as much as native species (although he leans heavily on the economic benefits of tourists to replace production, an economy that will have limits in terms of scale, especially for places with a long winter). But he seeks to keep people like farmers in the picture; increase their options rather than erase them (p. 11-12):

I do not think that extensive rewilding should take place on productive land. It is better deployed in the places – especially in the uplands – in which production is so low that farming continues only as a result of the taxpayer’s generosity. … It should happen only with the consent and enthusiasm of those who work on the land. It must never be used as an instrument of expropriation or dispossession.

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