Handling cumulative impacts during the environmental decision-making process

Although ecology doesn’t have many general laws, one most likely to qualify is the species-area relationship. If you walk through a field in a straight line and count all the different species you come across, you’ll notice that the total number of species increases as you progress along your straight path. After a while, however, you’ll start seeing the same species over and over again until you eventually find that you’re no longer spotting any new ones. This is the asymptotic species-area curve. While the exact mathematical form of the relationship is still hotly debated, it is safe to assume that it is an increasing function that reaches a plateau once all the species have been encountered.

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A trail guide to Golden Gate Highlands National Park (South Africa)

I’ve written about Golden Gate Highlands National Park in the past.

It’s a region that is very close to to my heart; I’ve spent hundreds of hours (and thousands of footsteps) on the sandstone slopes. Unfortunately, there are no complete guides to the hiking routes in the park – so I set out to make one of my own.

You can find route descriptions, hiking profiles, maps and photos of the main routes in the park by visiting this new page on my site. You can also download the route information as .kml shapefiles that can be imported into Google Earth or any other GIS platform.

View of Wodehouse

Crush the economy for the sake of conservation? Why not, we’ve done it before…

Should we conserve nature at the expense of the economy? Specifically, should we risk the collapse of major industrial sectors to save species?

We’ve created modern buzzwords like “sustainable development” and “new conservation” to explain multiple-objective conservation programs because many argue that conservation is only sustainable when it aligns with other economic, social and political goals. I’ve even argued this point-of-view in the past. Society is petrified of putting an end to the exploitation of nature because we worry about the terrible consequences of dismantling the modern-day economy. Should we worry about the impending threat of unemployment, debt and unpaid mortgages if we were to choose conservation instead of consumption?

The short answer: No! Well, at least not if the past is any predictor of the future. Continue reading

Passion is not enough to reverse the biodiversity crisis

If you’re reading this, then it’s safe to assume that you love nature. Your passion for all creatures great and small might even have pushed you to pursue a career in ecology or conservation biology. But is passion enough?

I don’t think so, and here’s why.

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Nah, mate, they just toss ’em into dog food!

Kangaroos2

I was in Australia earlier this year to help a colleague with a project he had started; but this post is not about that project. No, this post is about the time I crossed paths with a kangaroo hunter in the middle of nowhere.

We were busy with surveys one night when, like warning shots, a few raindrops started falling from the storm clouds that had gathered above us. Before Mother Nature brought out the heavy artillery, we shuffled down the mountainside and hurriedly set up a makeshift camp at the edge of an abandoned agricultural field. Fortunately for us, she was only bluffing and within an hour we were sitting under a clear sky making general chit-chat until our banter was broken by distant bang. We shrugged it off as the sound of faraway thunder echoing off the mountain side and only realised later that this was not the gentle rumbling of a passing storm; this time it was a real rifle shot. Continue reading

Mountains, marathons, and manuscripts: why I do fundamental research.

There are many metaphors that use running a marathon or climbing a mountain to describe the process of ecological research. This post will not have any. No, this post will ignore linguistic devices and will shine the spotlight on behavioural psychology instead. Continue reading