Environmental Conservation

THEMATIC ISSUE: Interdisciplinary Progress in Environmental Science & Management

Why history matters in ecology: an interdisciplinary perspective

PÉTER SZABÓa1 c1

a1 Institute of Botany of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Department of Vegetation Ecology, Poříčí 3b, CZ-603 00 Brno, Czech Republic

SUMMARY

In recent decades, the interconnectedness of history and ecology has received increasing attention. Although necessarily interdisciplinary, efforts to study this interconnectedness had their roots either in the humanities and social sciences or in the natural sciences: scholars have tried either to understand more about nature with the help of history, or, about human history with the help of natural phenomena. As a result, theoretical studies about the integration of ecology and history try to answer two relatively distinct questions: ‘why ecology matters in history’ and ‘why history matters in ecology’. This paper sets out to systematize current knowledge on the latter question and to highlight those issues that have so far received less attention. The arguments can be grouped into three major themes. First, history matters in ecology because it aids understanding of current patterns and processes in nature. Second, because it fosters better informed management and policy decisions; and third, because it places ecology and conservation in a wider interdisciplinary context. Besides dealing with the perspectives of ecologists and conservationists, this paper also includes material from historians, anthropologists and archaeologists, that is, from scholars whose primary interest does not lie in ecological investigations, but who have, nonetheless, embraced the need for the integration of ecology and history.

(Received January 29 2010)

(Accepted April 26 2010)

(Online publication November 02 2010)

Correspondence

c1 Correspondence: Dr Péter Szabó e-mail: szabo@policy.hu