In a session at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting this weekend in Boston about the future of conservation, Peter Kareiva, chief scientist for The Nature Conservancy, said that in the global ecosystem, multinational corporations like Cargill, Rio Tinto, and Dow are “keystone species” that conservation can only ignore to its peril.
John Robinson of the Wildlife Conservation Society was skeptical about the value of ideas like naturalness and wilderness. He said there has been a shift from valuing nature for its own sake toward creating conservation goals through an analysis of the cultural values associated with the aspect of nature under threat.
Both speakers promoted an ecosystems services approach to conservation.
The third panelist, Alan Thornhill, spoke about his recent experience as a science adviser at the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the agency that oversees continental shelf oil-drilling leases. Thornhill said that the agency actually had hundreds of scientists on staff, but their information was buried under layers of bureaucracy. The Deepwater Horizon catastrophe allowed those scientists’ voices to be heard, he said, by forcing the agency the agency to reorganize, which brought the science function closer to the executive level.
Earlier in the day there had been an entire panel devoted to ecosystem services, and we’ll cover that session tomorrow.