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The Dynamics of Ecosystems, Biodiversity Management and Social Institutions at High Northern Latitudes

Thomas Elmqvist, Fikret Berkes, Carl Folke, Per Angelstam, Anne-Sophie Crépin and Jari Niemelä. 2004 Ambio 33:350-355 (2004).


Ecosystems at high latitudes are highly dynamic, influenced by a multitude of large-scale disturbances. Due to global change processes these systems may be expected to be particularly vulnerable, affecting the sustained production of renewable wood resources and abundance of plants and animals on which local cultures depend. In this paper, we assess the implications of new understandings of high northern latitude ecosystems and what must be done to manage systems for resilience. We suggest that the focus of land management should shift from recovery from local disturbance to sustaining ecosystem functions in the face of change and disruption. The role of biodiversity as insurance for allowing a system to reorganize and develop during the disturbance and reorganization phases needs to be addressed in management and policy. We emphasize that the current concepts of ecological reserves and protected areas need to be reconsidered to developp dynamic tools for sustainable management of ecosystems in face of change. Characteristics of what may be considered as customary reserves at high latitudes are often consistent with a more dynamic view of reserves. We suggest new directions for addressing biodiversity management in dynamic landscapes at high latitudes, and provide empirical examples of insights from unconventional perspectives that may help improve the potential for sustainable management of biodiversity and the generation of ecosystem services.

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