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Biodiversity and the need for habitat renewal

University of Alberta
  • Biodiversity
  • Biological Reserves
  • Conservation
  • Habitat As Renewable Resource
  • Habitat Constant
  • Habitat Decay
  • Habitat Preservation
  • Habitat Renewal


The conservation of species requires preservation of natural habitats. Where the integrity of natural habitats has been upset, species go extinct. All natural habitats are continuing to decline, both inside and outside of reserves. Habitat change is partly a natural process (e.g., succession), but human activities have accelerated the process of decay so that natural rates of renewal are insufficient to maintain natural habitats. We argue that our only recourse, in light of these scenarios, is to adopt a new conservation strategy that considers the importance of habitat renewal in addition to habitat preservation. Accordingly, in our management decisions we must not only choose the size of area to preserve but also the size of area that balances habitat loss with habitat renewal. We also suggest that this habitat equilibrium point, H*, needs to be decided upon urgently, otherwise many species will become extinct in the next 50 yr according to numerous predictions. There are two ways to achieve H*. The first is to set habitats aside in protected areas in perpetuity. There are two reasons why this protection alone is insufficient: (1) protected areas continue to decline, albeit at a slower rate than outside of their boundaries, and (2) achieving H* simply by setting aside protected areas is no longer an option in many areas where severe habitat degradation or fragmentation has already occurred. The other way to achieve H* is to promote the restablishment of natural habitats, or ''habitat renewal.'' This concept is illustrated using a simple trade-off model that balances habitat decay and habitat renewal. We then provide examples of habitat loss outside and inside of protected areas and discuss the potential for habitat renewal to offset these losses. We conclude that continued emphasis needs to be placed on setting aside natural habitat in protected areas. However, our examples of habitat loss show that this policy alone is most likely doomed to failure, so a policy of habitat renewal is also required.

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