By Jake Tessler
Wilderness is untouched and untamed. Wilderness is romantic and remote. Wilderness exists outside of our sphere of influence, and must continue to do so in order to thrive. These sentiments are commonly held notions of nature in its purest, “wildest” form. But how do we reconcile these conceptualizations of nature with an environment that sees an increasing need for human intervention to countermand a mounting number of detrimental anthropogenic effects? This conflicting dichotomy forms the basis for what Throop and Purdom (2006) have termed the “participation paradox”. One of the key distinctions they have made is that participatory restoration tends to focus on integrating people into natural surroundings, not mitigating the impacts of human development. This, necessarily, puts participatory conservation efforts at odds with wilderness preservation. Their examination led to the conclusion that participatory conservation efforts should be isolated and limited to human-dominated landscapes to the extent possible.
However, recent emphasis on the integration of human experiences and activities into restoration and conservation projects represent an engagement-based paradigm shift, seeking to demystify “wilderness” and expand perceptions of nature (see Marris 2011). Specifically, aligning the process of restoration ecology with site-specific social and cultural importance can facilitate a bond between people and their natural surroundings. This form of participation-based ‘focal restoration’ requires that inclusive restoration practices concentrate less on the “wildness” of an area and instead emphasise the inherent social, cultural and ecological values (Higgs 2003).
Public engagement in restoration efforts has been described as critical to successfully navigate the complex and often controversy-laden landscape surrounding the politics associated with ecological restorations (Gobster 2000). Recent studies have sought to emphasize the importance and similarly controversial nature of moving public engagement out of town halls and community forums and into the field through volunteerism and citizen scientist-based project direction (Buzier et al. 2012; Theobald et al. 2015).
There are generally combinations of factors that motivate individuals towards environmental volunteering. Some of the most powerful have been found to be a sense of general environmental stewardship and location-specific attachment (Measham & Barnett 2008), as well as “atonement” for either past or present environmental damage (Clewell & Aronson 2006). Famed American biologist E.O. Wilson explores the evolutionary and philosophical aspects of such attachments in his 1984 book Biophilia. In the three decades following, a variety of interpretations and emphases on this subject have been discussed (see Nisbet et al. 2009).
Regardless of the impetus that compels an individual to volunteer time and effort, the will to do so is predicated upon a bond one feels, or desires to feel, with the natural world. However, capitalizing on the availability of volunteer labor is often met with hesitation from land managers helming restoration projects. A 2014 survey of land manager opinions towards to use of volunteer labor in their projects over the next 12 months showed that while respondents were evenly split as to their intentions, the largest block of respondents (nearly 25%) claimed to be undecided as to their inclusion of volunteer labor (Bruce et al. 2014). Commonly expressed reasons for this ambivalence included the lack of access to experienced and properly trained volunteers. This carries with it increased safety concerns as well as increased financial liabilities.
The key to surmounting these difficulties may lie in comprehensive youth engagement. Familiarizing young people with field-based, environmental restorations has the potential to not only impart valuable technical skills and help develop the natural bond required for life-long stewardship but contains intrinsic social and psychological value (Grese et al. 2000). Unfortunately, some researchers believe that we are currently witnessing the creation of an ecological generational gap. Defined by the lack of a personally developed, human-nature relationship fostered through a technology-based, recreationally insular worldview (Kareiva & Marvier 2012; Miller 2005; Pergams & Zaradic 2008), this gap has wide-ranging implications for active management restorations.
Student-based restoration projects, while usually not cost effective, have been shown to help create awareness and increase the appreciation of participants to their local surroundings (Evans et al. 2012). It is imperative to foster these lifelong human-nature relationships in young people and to do so through public education campaigns and early volunteer engagement. The continued and concerted implementation of a participatory, youth-based model should be considered paramount for the long-term success of future ecological restoration practice. Although incursions into established wilderness areas should be done so with care, we must accept that delineations which separate humans from wilderness are inherently, and subjectively, value-based. As such, it is imperative that these values are allowed not only to persevere, but evolve in order to retain relevancy.
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By Jason Preble
The Hawaiian archipelago is home to some 1,400 native vascular plant species, nearly 90% of which are endemic and half of which are threatened (Wagner 1999, Imada 2012). Though extensive work by numerous botanists has been conducted and a fairly thorough Manual of the Flowering Plants of Hawaii exists, regular revisions illustrate that there are missing pieces to be discovered (Wagner 1999, 2003, and 2012). One might think that with such a small land area and so much attention from naturalists, the Hawaiian Islands would have been completely picked over. However, that is not the case. Plants represent one of the largest groups, but rugged terrain, natural rarity, and declining ranges and populations make finding all Hawaiian taxa a continuing process. Monitoring efforts inform local conservation but are limited by resources. By lending their senses, skills, and smartphones, citizen scientists can be part of the answer to improving Hawaiian biodiversity censuses.
Extensive surveys conducted by government agencies and NGO’s have made important discoveries and informed management programs, (Douglas & Shaw 1989, Motley 1995, Wood 2012, Wood & Kirkpatrick 2014) but are by no means comprehensive. The regularity of discoveries and myriad of unknowns demonstrate the need for greater monitoring. In recent years, several plant species have been rediscovered (Wagner 2012, Wood 2012). In the last year alone, 2 morphologically striking species new to science have been described: Hibiscadelphus stellatus and Cyanea konahuanuiensis (Oppenheimer et al. 2014, Sporck-Koehler et al. 2015). Both plants have less than 100 known individuals. Even with only 33 native bird species remaining, nearly half have unknown population sizes or trends and 9 are possibly extinct (Reed et al. 2012). Expanding surveys would undoubtedly uncover more species in need of protection, other populations of endangered species, and improve our understanding of habitat requirements, ecology, and changes over time.
The main challenge is a shortage of resources: funding, taxonomic knowledge, and public interest. Crowdsourcing of citizen scientists offers a solution to these deficiencies—a unique capacity to survey large geographic and temporal scales (beyond the scope of traditional ecological research methods) for little cost (Dickinson et al. 2010). The enthusiasm and knowledge of citizen scientists has already contributed greatly to biodiversity mapping research worldwide (Silverton 2009). Citizen science not only directly assists conservation projects but also promotes public involvement, trust in science, education, interest, and support for local conservation (Bäckstrand 2003, Wiggins & Crowston 2011). In Hawai’i, citizen scientists have been used to locate invasive trees (Feldkamp 2014) and monitor the Kamehameha butterfly (Pulelehua Project) but their potential remains underutilized.
In conjunction with the reach of social media and accessibility of smartphones, an online database should be created for Hawai’i where citizens and partner organizations can post and view species observations. This database would improve native and non-native species monitoring as well as provide a powerful educational tool. Several online platforms, guides, and mobile tools exist to support such citizen science projects (Silverton 2009, Teacher 2013). A partner smartphone application would allow for easy recording of observation location, time, and images. The inclusion of species information and identification guides would enrich user interactions and increase data quality. Results should generally be public but for sensitive species, access could be limited to those involved in management.
Data quality is a major concern in citizen science projects and can be further improved using user quizzes and by crosschecking with peers, researchers, and past survey results (Riesch & Potter 2013). Data collected opportunistically by recreationists are also likely to be biased towards popular areas and charismatic species. Campaigns could request particular data and some projects have used directed volunteer surveys successfully (Silverton 2009). Although there are statistical methods to deal with the unique challenges of citizen science data (Bird 2014), designing simple but rigorous sampling instructions is important. Any citizen effort will also free up resources for professional surveys to expand and prioritize less accessed areas and specific taxa data deficiencies.
If knowing really is half the battle, then the first half of the battle has yet to be won in Hawai’i and we will need a bigger army. There are still habitats to be scoured for species and populations as part of the larger movement to save Hawai’i’s amazing biodiversity.
‘A`ohe hua o ka mai`a i ka lā ho’okaāhi – No Task is Too Big When Done Together
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Wood, Kenneth R., and Kirkpatrick, Megan. “Rediscovery of Melicope Quadrangularis (Rutaceae) and Other Notable Plant Records for the Island of Kaua‘i, Hawai‘i1.” Bishop Museum Occasional Papers 115 (2014): 29–32. Print.
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by Hannes Öckerman
Previously locally extinct, the wolf has reestablished itself in Sweden in the past decades. Had this species been a bumblebee or a fungus, it would probably not have been given much attention. However, being top predator surrounded with much controversy, the wolf has caused a polarized society and an eye-opener to how we must reconcile with each other and the wild regarding restoration issues.
Hunted to extinction (Laikre et al., 2013), wolves were absent in Sweden for about a century prior to their natural recolonization in the beginning of the 1980s (Wikenros et al., 2010). They established themselves in the southwestern parts of Sweden making them geographically isolated from the Eurasian population (Ericsson and Heberlein, 2003). Descending from only five founders, individuals of the Swedish wolf population are on average more related to each other than siblings (Laikre et al., 2013). This raises deep ecological and biological concerns addressing the dangers of genetic isolation and inbreeding (Laikre, 1999; Laikre et al., 1993).
Considered a native species, the majority of the Swedish population is positive to the right of wolves to exist within the nation’s borders (Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, 2015). There is discrepancy, however, to what extent. Appointed by the Swedish government, the Predators Commission concluded in 2009 that a viable population should consist of at least 450 individuals (Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, 2013; Liljelund, 2011) in order to significantly reduce its inbreeding (Laikre et al., 2013). On the contrary, the government adopted a policy to keep numbers below 210 (Swedish Government, 2009, p. 210), possibly influenced by the interests of hunters and farmers (Franchell, 2012). Thus, Swedish authorities have permitted ‘selective culling’ of wolfs since 2010 (Carlgren, 2010) despite being a protected endangered species. The wolf hunts have been juridically controversial, potentially breaching both national and European legislation (Laikre et al., 2013).
The polarization of society
The attitude differences regarding wolf restoration can also been seen in other parts of society. As Ericsson and Heberlein (2003, p. 150) put it, “The wolf has become the symbol for the divide between urban and rural [people]”. Farmers have a more negative attitude towards wolves (Stronen et al., 2007) and studies have concluded a positive correlation between attitude and distance to a wolf territory (Ericsson and Heberlein, 2003; Karlsson and Sjöström, 2007). So while some conservationists may wish to rewild Sweden back to a 19th century baseline, with wolves present throughout the entire country, I believe this desire comes with a reservation of the wolf not showing up in one’s backyard.
Hunters have raised concerns about the wolf’s impact on game populations of moose and roe deer but it has proven to be minor in comparison to that of humans (Nicholson et al., 2014; Sand and Gervasi, 2014; Gervasi et al., 2013). Moreover, competition with other native predators such as lynx is low (Wikenros et al., 2010). A recent increase in sheep and dogs killed by wolfs is observed though (Karlsson et al., 2014) and these direct negative experiences are likely to breed more unfavorable attitudes towards the canine predator (Karlsson and Sjöström, 2007). As these attitudes probably contributed towards the authorities’ decision to hunt wolf (Franchell, 2012), one must ask: are they justified? Should farmers accept some loss of livestock to benefit an endangered species? Can it be considered a risk one takes, just like losing sheep from theft, accidents or diseases? According to Mills (1987, p. 95), “Careless husbandry is the problem, not wolves”.
As some loss of livestock and competition for game animals probably is inevitable, there are measures that could be taken towards reconciliation between farmers, hunters and conservationists, between urban and rural people. Most likely, farmers and hunters will have to adapt to wolves repopulating the country. Consequently, it is important to present alternative husbandry solutions such as existing subsidies for preventive actions (Karlsson et al., 2014), lamas to protect sheep herds (Radio Sweden, 2013) and protection vests for hunting dogs (DN, 2011). Meanwhile, conservationists should move away from historical baselines and aim for achievable goals. These could include improving the connectivity in the landscape in order to increase the gene flow and reestablish a larger metapopulation across Scandinavia, Finland and Russia (Laikre et al., 2013; Hansen et al., 2011).
As a privileged nation I believe we have an ethical responsibility in restoring the Swedish wolf. Once having disrupted the ecosystem, I argue that humans should not prevent what in many ways is a natural recolonization of a native species. Furthermore, if we were to accept systematic hunting of wolf despite being an endangered species, there is a risk of knock-on effects with other conservationist values being questioned. The whole concept of protecting endangered species could be queried.
As emphasized by Marris (2013), the restoration of a top predator is usually problematic. In Sweden it has caused a polarized society with disagreements on a sustainable wolf population size. The current situation with wolf hunts, however, hinders the mitigation efforts on inbreeding and threatens the concept of protecting endangered species. Therefore, I conclude that society and authorities need to unite behind the restoration of a genetically viable wolf population, based on scientific research and embedded in reconciliation efforts. But then again, what do I know? I live hundreds of kilometers away from the closest wolf territory…
 With the exception of single wolves occasionally wandering in from Finland or Russia.
 Protecting individuals considered genetically important
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