This week a new paper revealed that humans have caused 322 animal extinctions over the past few centuries, and these numbers are alarming. But we can prevent more, using a tactic that some are calling "aggressive conservation."


In the photo above, the National Parks Service uses a helicopter to move a tranquilized grizzly bear.

This would involve intervening even more in ecosystems, but not to destroy them. We'd be using what we've learned about environmental diversity and stability over the past century to mitigate the damage we've already done.

David Biello writes in Scientific American:

To avoid the sixth mass extinction we will probably have to employ more aggressive conservation, such as moving species to help them cope with a changing climate. Think re-wilding: reintroducing species like wolves or beavers that were once present in a given ecosystem but have since disappeared. Aggressive conservation might also mean killing off newcomer species to preserve or make room for local flora and fauna; in New Zealand, rat extirpations have helped kakapos survive.

In the most extreme case aggressive conservation could involve bringing in new animals to fill the role of animals that have gone extinct. For example, European sailors ate their way through the Indian Ocean islands of Mauritius, killing off the dodo and the local tortoise species. But closely related tortoises from the neighboring Seychelles archipelago have been imported recently, and they have helped restore the island ecosystem, including bringing back the endangered local ebony trees. As a result of that success, similar projects are being considered from Caribbean islands to Madagascar. There is even some hope of bringing back entirely extinct species in the future using the new tools of synthetic biology...

Based on an estimate published in Nature in 2011, we have a century or two at present rates before our depredations assure a mass extinction.


This is something I've thought a lot about myself, and it's good to see more people responding to our dire situation with solutions rather than hopelessness.


Share This Story

Get our newsletter