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Shifting environmental foundations: The unprecedented and unpredictable future

Released: 2010
Stephenson, N.L.; C.I. Millar; D. Cole. 2010. Shifting environmental foundations: The unprecedented and unpredictable future. Chapter 4 in: Cole, D.N.; Yung L., eds. 2010. Beyond Naturalness: Rethinking Park and Wilderness Stewardship in an Era of Rapid Change. Island Press: p. 50-66

As described in Chapter 2, protected area managers have been directed, through statutes and agency policy, to preserve natural conditions in parks and wilderness. Although preserving naturalness has always been a challenge for managers, there has never been much question about whether this is the right thing to do. But given what is known now about the pace and magnitude of ongoing global changes, the appropriateness of naturalness as a management goal must be reexamined. A host of anthropogenic environmental stressors are reshaping ecosystems, including those protected in parks and wilderness. Pollution is now ubiquitous worldwide, and invasive species are common in most landscapes. Habitats have become highly fragmented, and climatic changes are dramatically altering the abiotic conditions in which biota live. Given these changes, some attempts to restore and maintain naturalness may at best be ineffective; at worst, they could waste precious resources and even contribute to loss of some of the values that managers are trying to protect.

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