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Know the West

Playing God


While I understand the frustration that Carianne Campbell of the Sky Island Alliance and Don Falk of the University of Arizona have about climate change, which produces a “moving target” for ecosystem restoration, I believe the use of nonnative plant species, particularly from outside the United States, is not ecosystem restoration (“Restoration’s crisis of confidence,” HCN, 8/6/18). We need to do better for landscapes that are changing and may need our steady and reasoned help.

The idea about the primeval old-growth forest and climax community shifted about 30 to 40 years ago. Now, ecologically, we think of a shifting mosaic of forests, for instance, due to a range of conditions, like climate, disturbance and other factors.

We need to take our cues from nature and err on the side of what it wants to do, not what humans want. Artificial, human-created ecosystems will not help landscape change in most cases. This is particularly the case because climate change may take decades, hundreds of years, even a millennium to fully express itself. We may chase ecosystem change and never get it right. Nature will figure it out over its timeframe, not ours. We must be patient and persistent in watching and heeding its call.

If we do not allow nature to make the decisions about how landscapes will change with climate change, we will end up “playing God.” If this happens, I dread the ecological consequences of our uninformed choices and actions.

Brandt Mannchen
Humble, Texas