Video - Reclamation, Restoration & the Emergence of Novel Ecosystems

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Eric Higgs
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The resource link will access Part 1 of this presentation. Part 2 can be accessed here.

In this presentation, Dr. Eric Higgs introduces rapid change and the emergence of novel ecosystems and our role in responsible intervention. Author of "Nature by Design", he argues that reclamation involves imprinting some aspect of our value system on that landscape. What is responsible intervention (or restoration) in ecosystems undergoing rapid change?

Canada's role in the emerging science of ecological restoration was in defining principles and guidelines (Parks Canada publication). Ecosystems are changing: people are engaged, pristine wilderness makes no sense in cultural landscapes, ecosystems are emerging that we haven't seen before, rewilding, assisted migration and invasive species. Alberta's view of reclamation focuses on reconverting disturbed land back to equivalent land capability. Restoration requires understanding what natural ecosystems occurred previously. The photography series from the Mountain Legacy project shows us that ecosystems change (not just glaciers receding and treeline shifts but forest density also increasing).

In Part 2 of his address at the LRIGS lecture, talks about reclamation and restoration principles and practices and the dynamics of change. He thinks our shifts in cultural values towards nature is very important in the dynamics of change. For example, we now talk about "ecosystem services". Dr. Higgs talks about novel and hybrid ecosystems and how their emergence signals new functions and whether we can get historical functions restored.

Dr. Higgs makes the point it is not a choice of either novel ecosystems or historical ecosystems. There are multiple trajectories as landscapes are restored. Whether reclamation can live with that tension is the question as we confront rapid change. History and historical knowledge as an anchor is becoming less reliable. He summarizes the virtues for land reclamation specialists in the future (fidelity, humility, sensitivity, self-restraint, historicity). Connecting people to ecosystems is one of the roles of reclamation science.

Dr. Eric Higgs was the keynote speaker at the University of Alberta's Land Reclamation International Graduate School (LRIGS) lecture on April 3, 2013 . Dr. Eric Higgs is a professor in the School of Environmental Studies, University of Victoria, British Columbia.

This presentation was recorded and originally hosted online by the Alberta Land Use Knowledge Network (LUKN).