Scientists, activists and others who have long advocated for ecological protection say a “social science approach” is needed to understand what happens to ecosystems and how to protect them.
The article appeared in the September 10 issue of Scientific American.
The cover illustration is an illustration of a pond with a pond in the center.
The image includes the words “Community ecology” in white lettering and a fish swimming in the pond with the caption, “Science and practice.”
(AP Photo/John Gress)Community ecology is often associated with scientific concepts such as biodiversity, carbon, and water use, but its scientific and philosophical roots stretch back to ancient civilizations in the Mesopotamian, Near East, and African societies.
In the Mesoamerican civilizations, community ecology was viewed as a way to preserve and conserve native species.
In modern times, community-based conservation efforts have helped conserve wildlife and plant species and are also needed for people to live more sustainably.
An illustration of what the pond might look like in a landscape with ponds.
The illustration shows a fish in the middle of the pond.
(AP Image/Mick Jagger)The idea of a community ecology model is gaining traction among conservationists and researchers.
For example, in 2013, the nonprofit organization Save the Whales called on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to develop a national model of community ecology for conservation.
And in 2015, the Natural Resources Defense Council released the Global Community Ecology Framework that identifies what the community ecology approach looks like and how it should work.
In addition, a growing number of communities are using local and community-scale approaches to protect their biodiversity, and many are exploring how to use the model for other conservation needs, including food security and biodiversity conservation.
“We have a lot of information about how communities are doing conservation,” said Dr. Brian Lees, who heads the University of Delaware’s Institute for Community Ecology.
“It’s a lot easier to have community-focused practices that have a good understanding of what happens in the environment.”
Lees, along with researchers in New Zealand, and others have spent time teaching ecologists how to understand the natural world and its ecological processes.
For them, that has been crucial.
“I think there is a lot that ecologists have been able to learn from their work,” said John Wahlberg, a senior scientist at the University at Buffalo who has spent more than a decade studying ecology.
“If you’ve done any kind of work that involves understanding ecology in terms of how it is organized, it is very much a natural extension of the natural sciences.”
The key, he said, is understanding what happens naturally in nature.
“That’s what community ecology is all about,” Wahlings said.
Community ecologists, he added, “want to understand how ecosystems work and how they interact with each other, which is really what it comes down to: how are ecosystems organized?”
In the past, there have been only a handful of large-scale studies of community-ecological interactions, but research has picked up in recent years.
In 2016, for example, researchers from the University College London and University of Michigan published a study that examined how people in a rural community, in England, learned about and interacted with fish, frogs, bees and other native wildlife.
As for the concept of community ecologists themselves, Wahlers said they have been “really busy” since the beginning of the century, as they have studied how communities interact and interact with one another.
In their research, they have also studied how people respond to nature and its ecosystems and have made plans for how they will be able to maintain and preserve the natural environment in the future.
“It’s an exciting time to be in the community,” Wollers said.
“There’s so much that’s happening, so many things are happening that people are discovering, and there’s a huge amount of potential to get this information out to the public.
It’s the first time that I can think of that we’re actually putting together a research project that’s going to be able for the general public to know about the natural state of the environment and to be a part of it.”