Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Interdisciplinarity and definitions of reintroduction

I’m sure many of the readers of this blog will be aware of the importance of interdisciplinarity in finding solutions to environmental challenges.  However, I admit that when I was working on the IUCN Guidelines for Reintroductions and Conservation Translocations, I felt that we were writing for an audience of conservation practitioners and while this involved using plain English, it required little consideration of disciplines beyond ecology.  Just how narrow my perspective was, was made clear to me when I attempted to respond to a paper by an environmental historian, Dolly Jørgensen (2011) on the concept of historic range.  The subtlety of the difference between 'historical range' and 'native range ... in historic times' was quite an eye-opener especially if you followed her arguments to conclusion to look at the impact it might have on translocation practice.

On her recommendation, we have adopted the term ‘indigenous range’ as a replacement for the problematic concept of historic range but I found that writing the first the definition of indigenous range was very challenging.  The process of honing this key definition was made much more rigorous by the thought processes I went through in responding to Jørgensen's paper (Dalrymple & Moehrenschlager 2013). Whilst we didn't agree with all her assertions, the process of being challenged was constructive and insightful.

So my message today is that interdisciplinarity is important because it has the potential to throw in a wildcard - something you can't predict but should still be responding to.  It challenges and ultimately improves our actions and in the potentially emotive arena of conservation translocations it should be something we all incorporate from the outset of any species recovery attempt.

Dalrymple, S. E., & Moehrenschlager, A. (2013). “Words matter.” A Response to Jørgensen’s Treatment of Historic Range and Definitions of Reintroduction. Restoration Ecology. doi:10.1111/j.1526-100X.2012.00932.x

Jørgensen, D. (2011). What’s History Got to Do with It? A Response to Seddon's Definition of Reintroduction. Restoration Ecology, 19(6), 705–708. doi:10.1111/j.1526-100X.2011.00834.x

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