What is conservation science? This is the question that we, the new students of the Conservation science course 2015, pondered upon bright and early on last Tuesday’s morning. Firstly, is it an actual science or an application of ecology? As science students majoring in ecology, we are torn between both as well. Turns out we are not the only ones.
Peter Kareiva and Michael Soulé have been exchanging heated correspondence through journal articles for years. According to Soulé, conservation biology is a value laden discipline where nature should be protected regardless of human needs and financial costs.
Kareiva’s view encompasses more of the contemporary global issues with the realistic notion that conservation takes places in an anthropocentric world. For him, conservation science is the meeting point of economics, sociology, philanthropy and conservation biology. Soulé strongly disagrees with this ‘new’ conservation science and continuously reminds his readers of nature’s intrinsic worth and merit. Having discussed both views, we decided that this is yet another example of improper communication where each side has good points and the solution probably lies somewhere in the middle.
To prove that these ideas can rear success in today’s world, we talked about the return of the Mauritius Kestrel (Falco punctatus) and the managing of wildlife areas by local people. But these are not the only success stories. In 1980 the Black Robin (Petroica traversi) had only five individuals left, of which one was a mature female. Through human intervention, cross-fostering and predator protection, there are now around 200 Black Robins. This conservation effort takes into account species ecology, physiology and follows Soulé’s ideas. Kareiva’s principles also have real world applications, as seen in the recovery of Costa Rica’s rainforest. After dropping down to a forest cover of just 29%, the government implemented a financial incentives scheme where landholders were paid to protect biodiversity. This has almost doubled rainforest cover and furthermore, it has provided job opportunities for the local people.
Both of these success stories show that although there might be controversy as to what conservation science actually is, its outcomes can without a doubt be good – for both us and the environment.
By Gergana Daskalova and Morna Brown