How Does a Historical Perspective Inform Ecosystem Management Targets, Goals, and Outcomes?

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Award Year: 
Principal Investigator: 
Andrew Trant, University of Waterloo
Loren McClenachan, Colby College
Associated Program: 


As global environmental change intensifies, historical ecology can provide compelling insight into the magnitude of landscape change and resilience of ecosystems. Using a variety of data types spanning large time scales (e.g., historical photographs of glacial extent; historical maps of species distributions), socio-environmental interactions through time can be explored to determine the drivers, and characteristics, and implications of ecosystem change. Understanding these changes allows scientists and ecosystem managers to set appropriate habitat restoration goals and targets, manage species at risk, and manage natural disturbance processes. Despite the importance of historical ecology data for management across a variety of ecosystems, examples of the impact of such research remains highly local and not synthesized. Our proposed Pursuit creates a timely opportunity to answer the following questions: 1) How have historical ecology perspectives influenced management decisions? 2) How do conservation decision-making, targets, and outcomes change when a long-term historical perspective is included? and 3) What are pathways to impact for historical perspectives across ecosystem types and management regimes? This will be accomplished by synthesizing case studies and data that illustrate how a historical perspective can influence ecosystem management. Our larger goal is to bridge existing boundaries across academic disciplines and ecosystems to strengthen the reach and impact of the field of historical ecology.

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