For over a decade, University of Arizona ecologist Michael Rosenzweig has preached a gospel of what he calls reconciliation ecology: designing everyday landscapes to support as many plants and animals as possible.
He says it’s the only way of averting ecological catastrophe, which standard approaches to preserving nature will only slow. Some conservationists have embraced the idea. Others think it’s rose-tinted dreaming. With a computer program directing the design, reconciliation ecology will get its test in Tucson, Arizona.
“We decided to turn Tucson into a lab of a million people,” said Rosenzweig, who spoke on reconciliation ecology Aug. 3 at the Ecological Society of America meeting in Pittsburgh. “We’re not trying to restore old habitats. We’re trying to invent new ones.”
The project’s roots extend back to 1995, when Rosenzweig wrote a textbook on island biogeography, a field of research describing ecological dynamics on ocean islands. Over the last several decades, the research had been applied to terrestrial islands formed by human development. The findings were discouraging. Ecologists predicted the loss of 40 to 50 percent of all species. After reviewing the literature, Rosenzweig t...