New Wine and Old Wineskins? Novel Ecosystems and Conceptual Change

in Nature and Culture
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ABSTRACT

The concept of novel ecosystems (CNE) has been proposed as a way to recognize the extent and value of ecosystems that have been irreversibly transformed by human activity. Although the CNE has recently been subject to critique, existing critiques do not appear to seriously engage with the extent of anthropogenic change to the world’s ecosystems. Here, I seek to provide a deeper, philosophical and constructive critique, specifically arguing that the usefulness of the CNE is limited in the following three ways: (1) it is too static, (2) it is too vague, and (3) it is too dualistic. Although the CNE provides some conceptual advance (“new wine”), some of its conceptualization and packaging weakly support this advance (“old wineskins”), so I consider some ways to further develop it, in part to encourage more widespread recognition and appreciation of novel ecosystems.

Contributor Notes

Brendon Larson completed a Bachelor’s in biology (University of Guelph), a Master’s in botany (University of Toronto), and an interdisciplinary PhD in science and society (University of California–Santa Barbara), and he is now an Associate Professor in the School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability, University of Waterloo. He has published over 60 refereed journal articles and book chapters, and in 2011 Yale University Press published his first monograph, Metaphors for Environmental Sustainability: Redefining Our Relationship with Nature. His current research focuses on stakeholder perceptions of assisted colonization, invasive species, and novel social-ecological systems. For more information, please visit www.brendonlarson.com. Address: School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, N2L3G1, Canada. E-mail: blarson@uwaterloo.ca.

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