Unit 7: Historic/Hybrid/Novel Ecosystems Concepts

Introduction to Unit 7

In this unit there is a presentation by Dr. Eric Higgs, faculty, and Sonia Voicescu, PhD Candidate, School of Environmental Studies, UVic. [Note: this presentation is unavailable in the Creative Commons licensed version of this course]

The purpose of this unit is to understand:

  • What types of ecosystems you encounter in your daily life, and:
  • What are the characteristics of these ecosystems and how does climate change affect them?

Learning Objectives

After successfully completing this unit, you will be able to:

  • Differentiate between different ecosystem types
  • Recognize local examples of ecosystem types
  • Identify your role in assisting their recovery.

As you watch and listen to the presentation, think about the ecosystems you encounter every day and what you could do to assist in their recovery. [Note: this presentation is unavailable in the Creative Commons licensed version of this course]

Summary of Key Points

There is an increasing consensus that global climate change occurs and that potential changes in climate are likely to have important regional consequences for biota and ecosystems. Ecological restoration, including (re)-afforestation and rehabilitation of degraded land, is included in the array of potential human responses to climate change. However, the implications of climate change for the broader practice of ecological restoration must be considered. In particular, the usefulness of historical ecosystem conditions as targets and references must be set against the likelihood that restoring these historic ecosystems is unlikely to be easy, or even possible, in the changed biophysical conditions of the future. (Harris et.al. 2006).

Within the next 100 years, and much sooner in some regions, prescribing restorations using purely historical references will prove increasingly challenging at best, and at worst lead to failure, due to changes in climatic conditions.  In addition to potential changes in climate, there are also increasingly changed species mixes available to colonize disturbed or stressed sites.

The combination of novel species mixes and altered biophysical settings is resulting in the development of a range of novel or emerging ecosystems that have unknown functional characteristics and that may be difficult or impossible to return to a prior condition (Harris et.al. 2006).

Many landscapes now consist of a diverse array of ecosystems with varying characteristics and management emphases, all of which provide various ecosystem services.  Accelerating rates of climate and land-use change and species invasions result in rapidly evolving spatial dynamics among multiple landscape patches.  These patches have differing sets of services and management challenges, and accounting for these complex dynamics and attributes is essential for effective conservation and restoration planning (Hobbs et. al. 2014).

A range of options is available for the management of ecosystems identified as historical, hybrid, and novel. The options depend on the goals selected, which may include the protection of biodiversity, conservation of ecosystem functioning and services, maintenance of historical continuity, and provision of natural resources for local human livelihoods. Regardless of terminology used – novel, emerging, recombinant, no-analog – ecosystems that challenge conventional conservation and restoration are a present reality.  Managing for the whole landscape – mosaics of historical, hybrid, and novel ecosystems – allows for a comprehensive and transparent approach to managing for a range of goals (Hobbs et.al. 2014).



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Ecosystems for the Future Copyright © by Division of Continuing Studies, University of Victoria is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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