You are here: home   Blogs   The GOAT Blog   Survival or bust
The GOAT Blog

Survival or bust

Document Actions
Tip Jar Donation

Your donation supports independent non-profit journalism from High Country News.

andreaa | Jul 30, 2008 07:00 PM

The Quino checkerspot, a pretty patchwork butterfly native to the scrubland of southern California, is not doing so well. The butterfly has been listed as endangered since 1997 and only a few small populations remain.

But a group of biologists have a suggestion for how the Quino—and other organisms on the brink of extinction—might be saved. In an article published in Science earlier this month, Camille Parmesan of the University of Texas at Austin and others argue that in the face of climate change, “assisted colonization”—in which a species is moved to a more hospitable habitat—may be the only chance of saving some endangered species. In dire circumstances, they say, we may be able to save those species that can’t migrate on their own or evolve quickly enough to adapt to a changing climate.

While the press seems to be enjoying speculating on what this could mean—Polar bears wreaking havoc in Antarctica! Lions prowling Kansas!—the scientists’ proposal is a bit more measured. They say that assisted colonization should only be used in cases of imminent extinction, and only when the benefits outweigh the costs. They also recommend moving a species within the same broad biogeographic region if possible.

The proposal has stirred up controversy within the conservation biology community, primarily because human beings have a poor track record with introduced species. Consider the tamarisk, the zebra mussel, the quagga. The cane toad.

But the idea of assisted colonization also begs more philosophical questions. Does the idea represent a drastic shift in how we view the natural world, or is it no different than conservation measures like habitat preservation or captive breeding?  What is an organism worth, in the absence of all context? Are there circumstances in which we simply ought to let a species go?

Here’s hoping the Quino and its endangered brethren survive the climate crisis in their native habitats, leaving such questions to the science fiction set.

Filed under: ,

Email Newsletter

The West in your Inbox

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook! Follow us on Twitter! Follow our RSS feeds!
  1. The death of backpacking? | Younger people don’t seem interested in this out...
  2. Why I am a Tea Party member |
  3. The privatization of public campground management | All the info you need to decide whether you love o...
  4. Efficiency lessons from Germany |
  5. The Latest: Interior commits to restoring bison on select lands | The “odd ungulate out” gets a tentative win.
  1. The death of backpacking? | Younger people don’t seem interested in this out...
  2. A graceful gazelle becomes a pest | Inrroducing an African gazelle called the oryx for...
  3. What's killing the Yukon's salmon? | An ecological mystery in Alaska has scientists and...
  4. Plains sense | Ten years after Frank and Deborah Popper first pro...
  5. North Dakota wrestles with radioactive oilfield waste | Regulators look at raising the limit for radiation...
 
© 2014 High Country News, all rights reserved. | privacy policy | terms of use | powered by Plone