The Science Behind
Effective conservation and ecological restoration
needs to be done on multiple scales: local, ecosystem, regional, and
continental. In recent years, conservation biologists,
including many Rewilding Institute Fellows, have conducted the
research and developed the concepts that underlie the need for doing
conservation and restoration on a continental scale. Of
course, work needs to continue on smaller scales as well.
Because nearly all other conservation groups work on these other
scales, The Rewilding Institute was established to emphasize
continental-scale conservation in North America. The following
areas of work are the foundation for continental-scale conservation.
Clicking on a topic will take you to a page with a more detailed
discussion and links to resources, including books and papers. Among
the books, Rewilding North America covers all of these topics
and Continental Conservation covers most of them—both are
available directly from TRI. Other books may be ordered
directly from Amazon from this website. All it takes is a
Key articles, whether peer-reviewed or popular, are listed under
each topic in four categories: (1) Those in PDF form that can be
downloaded; (2) those that are available in listed books; (3) those
that are available from a link to another site; and (4) those we
cannot yet offer electronically, but for which we give a full
citation. (Note: This part of the website is still
under construction. Unfortunately, many scientific journals do
not seem to be interested in making papers available for educational
purposes and thus will not allow us to offer PDFs from this website.
We will add downloadable articles as we receive permission to offer
them. We also will add articles when we can figure out other
ways to make them available to you. We are currently creating PDFs
for many articles from Wild Earth journal and will list them
as soon as the PDFs are available.)
For some topics, we also provide links to longer reports.
Please suggest other books, papers, and reports on these subjects so
we can make this resource more comprehensive.
Rewilding North America: A Vision for Conservation in the 21st
Century by Dave Foreman (Island Press 2004).
Order from The Rewilding
(R) Continental Conservation: Scientific Foundations of Regional
Reserve Networks edited by Michael E. Soulè and John Terborgh
(Island Press 1999).
Order from The Rewilding Institute.
Saving Nature’s Legacy: Protecting and Restoring Biodiversity
by Reed F. Noss and Allen Y. Cooperrider (Island Press 1994). Order
Hope’s Horizon: Three Visions for Healing the American Land
by Chip Ward (Island Press 2004). Order from Amazon.
Conservation Biology: An Evolutionary-Ecological Perspective
edited by Michael E. Soulè and Bruce A. Wilcox (Sinauer 1980). Order
Conservation Biology: The Science of Scarcity and Diversity
edited by Michael E. Soulè (Sinauer 1986). Order from Amazon.
Sky Islands Wildlands Network Conservation Plan by Dave
Foreman et al. (The Wildlands Project 2000). Available from Kim
Vacariu, The Wildlands Project, at 520-884-0875 or
New Mexico Highlands Wildlands Network Vision by Dave Foreman
et al. (The Wildlands Project 2003). CD only available from Kim
Vacariu, The Wildlands Project, at 520-884-0875 or
Southern Rockies Wildlands Network Vision: A Science-based
Approach to Rewilding the Southern Rockies by Brian Miller et
al. (Colorado Mountain Club Press 2003). Order from Amazon. Or from
More will be added from time to time. Other books, articles,
and reports are listed under each topic.
These topics are listed more or
less in the order in which they should be viewed. For example,
Rewilding is more
understandable after reading Top-Down Regulation.
Research around the world over the last several decades has shown
that large carnivores are vital for ecosystem integrity through
their top-down regulation of other species. When top
predators are removed, negative effects reverberate down the trophic
levels (food chain) of an ecosystem. When big hunters are restored,
the ecosystem begins to heal. Regional- and continental-scale
conservation strategies need to emphasize the top-down role of large
Michael Soulè developed the ecological restoration approach of
rewilding in the mid-1990s. Large carnivores need big, wild,
roadless areas of habitat for security from humans and to fulfill
their survival needs. Few protected areas in North America or
anywhere in the world are large enough to stand alone as habitats,
therefore core habitats need to be linked by wildlife movement
corridors or landscape permeability. Thus, the “Three Cs” of
rewilding are: Carnivores, Cores, and Connectivity.
Recovery goals for
threatened and endangered species have historically been based on
restoring only minimal populations large enough to prevent genetic
extinction. New work by Michael Soulè and other researchers argues
that goals instead should seek to reestablish ecologically
effective populations for highly interactive species.
Highly interactive species, formerly called keystone or foundation
species, are those that have a disproportionately large effect on
ecosystems. Ecologically effective populations are populations large
enough so that a species, such as a large carnivore, is able to
exercise its top-down regulation of the ecosystem.
and Evolutionary Processes
Once upon a time,
land managers believed that natural disturbance events, such as
fire, were bad and should be prevented. Now we know that these
natural ecological and evolutionary processes are vital for land
health and need to be maintained or restored to wildlands. The most
important processes for restoration are wildfire, predation, and
hydrology (stream flooding, etc.).
experience clearly show that many species need large core protected
areas that are roadless or mostly so. Sensitive species,
including many carnivores, are vulnerable to human persecution and
disruption. Preventing motorized access is the best way to reduce
such human impacts. A regional conservation strategy without
wilderness (roadless areas) is not serious.
Habitat fragmentation is widely recognized as one of the leading
causes of extinction. Since the mid-1980s, conservation area
design in general and wildlands network design in particular have
emphasized the importance of protecting and restoring corridors or
linkages between core protected areas for the secure movement of
various species. Corridors and linkages on the local and regional
scales become landscape permeability on the continental
wildlife-movement linkages are an essential part of local and
regional-scale conservation planning, MegaLinkages are essential to
continental-scale conservation. Four
MegaLinkages—Arctic-Boreal, Pacific, Spine of the Continent, and
Appalachian—make up the North American Wildlands Network proposed by
The Rewilding Institute and other groups.