Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Ethical Debate: endangered species vs. ecosystems

Fellow blogger, David from WhySharksMatter, had an interesting post that I thought I would pass along: the ethical dilemma that develops when endangered species are re-located, between saving the species and protecting the ecosystem. Does the re-located endangered species become an invasive species? Does its re-location produce adverse effects in its new environment.

This ties in to the post I put up recently regarding the Desert Tortoise, where re-located tortoises were not necessarily impacting the new environment; rather the tortoises themselves were become victims of predators in their new environment. How can we avoid our "solutions" becoming part of the "problem"?

Here's David's post:

Ethical debate: endangered species vs. ecosystems
2009 August 23
by whysharksmatter

It’s been a long time since our last ethical debate, but I think you’ll all like this one.

At two different conferences I attended this summer, I heard about a hot new topic in the conservation movement. Biologists studying a variety of organisms, from plants to turtles, are debating this all over the world as we speak.

This new conservation technique is sometimes called “assisted migration”, “managed relocation”, and a variety of other names. Regardless of what you call it, the principle is the same. When an endangered species’ habitat is threatened, scientists simply round up all the members of that species that they can find and move them to a similar habitat elsewhere. Here’s the catch… the places where the endangered species are moved to are often NOT part of those species original range. In other words, we are intentionally introducing invasive species!

Though not necessarily always the case, for the sake of this ethical debate let’s assume that the following two statements are true.

1) Moving an endangered species to a new habitat WILL help the endangered species to survive.

2) Introducing new species to a habitat WILL disrupt the ecosystem of that habitat.

The ethical debate here is straightforward… is it morally right to save an endangered species by disrupting another ecosystem with an invasive species?

It is worth noting that as we are debating this on an academic level, it IS happening. Though there are many examples, one hits close to home. A conservation group known as the “Torreya Guardians” is taking what they call “the world’s most endangered conifer tree” and moving it from Florida… to the very forest where Andrew and I spent many happy weeks hiking while at Duke.

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