University of Cambridge > > Behaviour, Ecology & Evolution Seminar Series > Dimming of the Garden State: An ecological unravelling

Dimming of the Garden State: An ecological unravelling

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Environmental consequences of human actions long have been excluded from formal accounting in economic modelling (‘externalities’). Deleterious environmental effects only recently have been contemplated in economic frameworks, most notably, in carbon pollution and the ETS . Victoria, once proudly Australia’s ‘Garden State’, has a wide range of environmental problems that have not been, and seem unlikely to be, factored into the economic structure, and yet indicate that the Garden State is unravelling ecologically. Three case studies, by no means a full list, are considered here: (1) the massive decline in condition of the River Red Gum estate of the northern floodplains; (2) the crash of woodland birds of central and northern Victorian forests and woodlands; and (3) widespread decline in diversity and numbers of amphibians in the same region. All are linkable to broad-scale ecological mismanagement exacerbated by climate change. Four hard-won lessons emerge from these and a vast number of other systems in Australia and elsewhere. First, ecological sustainability is the only form of sustainability we should care about. Second, ecological systems are fundamentally ‘sloshy’, and our attempts to engineer for constancy are badly misdirected. Third, there will be ecological surprises in the future, but we currently have little capacity for envisaging and planning for them. Last, ecological processes have a wide range of scales. Many of the most influential processes operate over very large areas (millions of hectares) and very long periods (decades to centuries). Policy and management needs to have a sufficiently forward-looking and large-scale perspective to deal with these overarching processes.

This talk is part of the Behaviour, Ecology & Evolution Seminar Series series.

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