10.6: Topics for Discussion


1. Read the articles by Bunce et al. (2008) and/or Papworth et al. (2009) about shifting baselines. Then think of a natural ecosystem in your region; it could even be an ecosystem in a protected area. How do you think that ecosystem looked 50 years ago? What about 100 years ago? And 1,000 years ago? At what time do you think the ecosystem was able to support the most diverse ecological community? What would you do to restore (or maintain) the ecosystem to this state? Would such a restoration project impact some species negatively? Is that a problem?
2. Consider all the aquatic communities in your region (ponds, marshes, streams, rivers, lakes, estuaries, coastal waters, etc.). Who is responsible for managing these ecosystems, and how do they balance the need for protecting biodiversity with the needs of society for natural resources? What additional conservation projects would you implement to help protect those ecosystems in the coming decades?
3. Imagine that the last population of a threatened bird species (which draws birdwatchers to the area) lives along a river nearby. This river also has numerous endemic species of fish, shellfish, and insects. A foreign company recently obtained permission to dam the river for hydropower generation. Beyond the impact of flooding, the dam will also cause various forms of pollution which will destroy the threatened birds’ food source and nesting area. Upon writing about the challenge in the local newspaper, you receive US $1 million from an anonymous donor to save the bird. The company is willing to forego the development in exchange for the US$1 million. It will cost an additional \$750,000 to implement an effective ecological restoration program that can reverse the threatened birds’ population declines. Is it better to buy out the company and not devote additional resources to ecological restoration and researching the bird? Or would you rather spend the money on finding alternative ways to protect the bird and the other endemic species? Explain your answers.

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