Reconciliation ecology and the future of species diversity

Michael L. Rosenzweig a1
a1 Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, 85721-0088, USA. E-mail: scarab@u.arizona.edu


Species-area relationships (SPARs) dictate a sea change in the strategies of biodiversity conservation. SPARs exist at three ecological scales: Sample-area SPARs (a larger area within a biogeographical province will tend to include more habitat types, and thus more species, than a smaller one), Archipelagic SPARs (the islands of an archipelago show SPARs that combine the habitat-sampling process with the problem of dispersal to an island), and Interprovincial SPARs (other things being equal, the speciation rates of larger biogeographical provinces are higher and their extinction rates are lower, leading to diversities in proportion to provincial area). SPARs are the products of steady-state dynamics in diversity, and such dynamics appears to have characterized the earth for most of the last 500 million years. As people reduce the area available to wild species, they impose a linear reduction of the earth's species diversity that will follow the largest of these scales, i.e. each 1% reduction of natural area will cost about 1% of steady-state diversity. Reserving small tracts of wild habitat can only delay these reductions. But we can stop most of them by redesigning anthropogenic habitats so that their use is compatible with use by a broad array of other species. That is reconciliation ecology. Many pilot projects, whether intentionally or inadvertently espousing reconciliation ecology, are demonstrating that it can be done.

(Received August 14 2002)
(Revised January 9 2003)
(Accepted February 10 2003)

Key Words: Countryside biogeography; mass extinction; reconciliation ecology; species-area curve; species diversity; steady state.