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Ambiguous legislation, insufficient science, jurisdictional disputes, and conflicting values of stakeholders have contributed to the increasing frequency of natural resource conflicts. The allocation of horseshoe crabs in Delaware Bay and Cape Cod Bay can serve as a model system for understanding resource conflicts, because relationships among biophysical and human systems in this example typify many environmental controversies. Herein, we use an interaction web to build a conceptual framework for identifying potential conflicts. Specifically, we identify four subconflicts involving horseshoe crabs, human shellfishers, commercial fishers, the biomedical industry, birdwatchers, and environmental interest groups. Stakeholders hold different attitudes concerning the horseshoe crab and thus advocate competing policy preferences in the political process. An important step in understanding environmental conflicts is to clarify differences in social meanings, attitudes, and values. The integrated approach described here, by depicting and graphically displaying biosocial relationships, can provide a generalized approach for understanding a broad range of environmental conflicts.
The rate of future climate change is likely to exceed the migration rates of most plant species. The replacement of dominant species by locally rare species may require decades, and extinctions may occur when plant species cannot migrate fast enough to escape the consequences of climate change. Such lags may impair ecosystem services, such as carbon sequestration and clean water production. Thus, to assess global change, simulation of plant migration and local vegetation change by dynamic global vegetation models (DGVMs) is critical, yet fraught with challenges. Global vegetation models cannot simulate all species, necessitating their aggregation into plant functional types (PFTs). Yet most PFTs encompass the full spectrum of migration rates. Migration processes span scales of time and space far beyond what can be confidently simulated in DGVMs. Theories about climate change and migration are limited by inadequate data for key processes at short and long time scales and at small and large spatial scales. These theories must be enhanced to incorporate species-level migration and succession processes into a more comprehensive definition of PFTs.
Dothistroma needle blight, caused by the fungus Dothistroma septosporum, is a major pest of pine plantations in the Southern Hemisphere, where both the host and the pathogen have been introduced. In northern temperate forests where the pest and host trees are native, damage levels have historically been low; however, Dothistroma is currently causing extensive defoliation and mortality in plantations of lodgepole pine in northwestern British Columbia, Canada. The severity of the disease is such that mature lodgepole pine trees in the area are succumbing, which is an unprecedented occurrence. This raises the question of whether climate change might enable the spread of the disease by surpassing an environmental threshold that has previously restricted the pathogen's development in northern temperate regions. Establishing a causal relationship between climate change and local biological trends is usually difficult, but we found a clear mechanistic relationship between an observed climate trend and the host–pathogen interaction. A local increase in summer precipitation, not climate warming, appears to be responsible. We examine whether the recently observed climate change trend exceeds natural fluctuations in the local climate.
Although most natural history museums and herbaria are small (fewer than 50,000 specimens), digital and online technologies are greatly increasing their value to society. By generating and disseminating new knowledge, these smaller facilities embody the mission of higher education. Natural history museums confront a recurring problem, however: a lack of personnel to assist with collections management. Even small collections require more than a single curator to oversee daily operations. Moreover, newly appointed curators typically underestimate curatorial complexities and challenges, the foremost of which are inadequate budgets and insufficient professional time allotted for curation. Creating numerous horizontal linkages from the facility within and outside the institution is considered important for the long-term viability of smaller facilities. In this article I discuss several situations that new curators are likely to encounter, and present recommendations for administrators regarding realistic budgets and curatorial allocations, including what they can expect in return for sustained institutional support.
The ways in which economic, social, and political forces lead to species introductions are an important, if overlooked, aspect of ecology and conservation. The nonnative Nile perch (Lates niloticus) in Lake Victoria, and the ecological changes associated with the species' establishment and expansion there, has elicited tremendous attention from biologists. Yet it has never been clear why, when, or by whom the fish was introduced. Here I outline the history of fishery research and management in East Africa and explore the circumstances that led to the introduction of the Nile perch. The evidence suggests that repeated secretive introductions were made in the mid-1950s by members of the Uganda Game and Fisheries Department as part of a bifurcated effort to improve sport fishing on the one hand and to bolster fisheries on the other. Fisheries scientists affiliated with the East African Fisheries Research Organization opposed the introduction, but were ineffective; I suggest that this failure stemmed partially from their inability to engage effectively with political processes.