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Ecosystem integrity is neither real nor valuable

Published:

Mar 25, 2021

Paper Title:

Ecosystem integrity is neither real nor valuable

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Abstract

We argue that “ecological integrity” is a bad fit as a value for conservation biology and restoration ecology. Both fields are organized around shared values, but it is important to be clear about the specific values and reasons motivating protection of or interventions in specific ecosystems. In practice, appeals to ecological integrity often fail to account for losses in value when ecosystems change. Ultimately, we do not believe ecosystems are the kinds of things that have integrity. Ecosystems are simply too dynamic in space and time, their complex interconnections, including coevolved relationships, ultimately fleeting at the geological scale. Any impression of “wholeness” is an artifact of the brevity of human lives and the shallowness of our historical records. We believe “ecological integrity” as it is currently used is typically a proxy for the values of diversity, complexity, and cultural connections with beloved ecosystem states. We should simply say what we mean and retire the concept of “ecological integrity.”

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