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The Preservation of Natural Biotic Communities
Victor E. Shelford
There appears to be a definite desire on the part of the people of all countries to preserve at least some of the original vegetation and wild animals. The national parks as well as other parks and reservations of Europe, Africa, the United States and Canada are well known examples. However, types of vegetation other than forest have usually not been preserved except incidentally as inclusions within the forested area or in connection with some historical and ethnological remains. The larger wild animals of all civilized countries have been greatly reduced in numbers, some because they are a hindrance to agriculture, others because of their value as food and clothing. Still others have been slaughtered for no good reason. Many people think that the national parks of Canada and the United States, some state and provincial parks, and some national forests have escaped this elimination of large animals. They believe that such areas are examples of primeval nature with the animal life essentially complete. The national parks of both countries doubtless represent the least disturbed series of areas which we have on the continent. Some states and provincial parks and one or two of the national forests in each country may be equally undisturbed at present, but probably less well safeguarded or on a less permanent basis. Yet, many have been surprised to learn of the large amount of modification which has gone on in times past within these park areas, both before and in some cases perhaps after they were set aside.
The whole trend of research and education is toward specialization on particular objects or particular organisms. These are stressed while the assemblage to which they belong is ignored or forgotten, together with the fact that they are to be regarded as integral parts of the system of nature. Outside of modern ecology and geography there has been little or no tendency towards the development of specialists on the entire life of natural areas. Perhaps one reason why nature study has been unsuccessful is because too often it is not the study of nature but of single natural objects or groups of objects which constitute a small part of any natural aggregation. Often this has resulted in the development of emotions relative to the plants or animals singled out for this study, followed by sentimental desires to protect them.
From "A Nature Sanctuary Plan," Ecology, 1933, 13(2).
Biologists are beginning to realize that it is dangerous to tamper with nature by introducing plants and animals, or by destroying predatory animals or by pampering herbivores. Much of the so-called "control" of noxious insects, of predatory animals, and of plant diseases is based upon the idea that nature can be "improved." This is, of course, the dominant idea of all agricultural, silvicultural and game cultural practice. The fact remains, however, that wolves and other predators, and herbivores in numbers have lived together for thousands of years without disaster and that in some of our national parks, they have lived together with far better maintenance of natural conditions than in areas where control has prevailed.
In general, from a philosophical and practical viewpoint, the unmodified assemblage of organisms is commonly more valuable than the isolated rare species. However, because the significance of the unmodified assemblage is popularly ignored, the whole is commonly sacrificed in the supposed interest of the rare species. Due to the local habitat relations of the rare species, neither need be sacrificed in any large natural area, hence the importance of large sanctuaries.
The principal activity of field ecologists might be stated to be the gathering of data for the interpretation of nature. To the ecologists, it is the entire series of plants and animals which live together in any community which is of primary interest.
The Ecological Society of America has always been interested in the preservation of natural areas with all their native animals. A committee composed of its members published a book entitled The Naturalist Guide ('25) listing a very large number of such areas and so is in a position to know the extent and present condition of such areas. Only a very few were reported in a pristine condition so far as animals were concerned. The society has recently held a number of conferences with park and forest officials and after careful consideration, prepared the following memorandum dealing with (1) definition, (2) size, and (3) classification of natural areas containing original plant and animal life.
B. Nature Sanctuaries or Nature Reserves
I. Meaning and Use of the Term
Just what original nature in any area was like from a biological viewpoint, is not known and never can be known with any greater accuracy. Primitive man, who could not remove the forest or exterminate the animals, is properly called a part of nature. At the time of the discovery of America, a scattered population of Indians had locally modified the vegetation, but had not destroyed any of the vegetation types. However, most of the areas which are now available for reservation as nature sanctuaries or nature reserves were probably not much affected by these primitive men. This is the argument for leaving them out of the picture.
"Nature" and "natural" are purely relative terms and can have significance only as averages, because the outstanding phenomenon of biotic communities is fluctuations in numbers of constituent organisms or reproductive stages of organisms over a period of one to thirty or more years. Thus a Nature Sanctuary is primarily an area in which these fluctuations are allowed free play.
The term Nature Sanctuary has been applied to areas covered by natural vegetation, but not containing all the animal species. In Europe, for example, in some of the nature parks no timber is removed and only persons with serious scientific or other scholarly interest are admitted. The Nature Sanctuaries are surrounded by areas in a less natural state, such as nearly natural forest devoted to growing timber, game production, etc. These surrounding lands are called buffer areas of partial protection.
In the United States and Canada areas of nearly natural vegetation are larger than in central Europe and fewer of the animals have been lost. It is possible, therefore, to recognize several classes of Nature Sanctuaries in North America.
II. Classes of Nature Sanctuaries
The categories below are arbitrary and merely for the purpose of providing provisional basis ranking of natural areas. The classification of each area should be determined by a committee of competent naturalists.
1. First Class Nature Sanctuaries
Any area of original vegetation, containing all the animal species historically known to have occurred in the area (except primitive man), and thought to be present in sufficient numbers to maintain themselves, is suitable for a first class Nature Sanctuary.
2. Second Class Nature Sanctuaries
a. Second growth areas (of timber) approaching maturity, but conforming to the requirement of No. 1 in all other aspects.
b. Areas of original vegetation from which not more than two important species of animal are missing.
3. Third Class Nature Sanctuaries
Areas modified more than those described under No. 2.
III. Other Terms and Their Meanings in Common Usage
1. Nature Sanctuary—This emphasizes not only the stationary (floral) elements but also the motile (faunal) elements. It necessitates buffering and non-interference by man.
2. The only synonym for Nature Sanctuary that has been suggested is Nature Reserve.
3. Research Reserve (U.S. National Park Service sense) means Nature Sanctuary, as the areas are selected to represent the primitive biological condition and admission is by permit only. The U.S. National Park Service appears to be working toward a three-zone plan: (a) a zone of development which is a small portion of the park devoted to hotels, camps, etc; (b) the greater portion of the park open to the public and traversed by trails and roads (in many cases these areas may serve as second or third class Nature Sanctuaries); (c) Research Reserves open to the public only by permits.
4. NaturalArea (U.S. Forest Service sense)—This emphasizes the stationary elements of nature, hence is primarily floral.
5. Buffer Area is a region surrounding a Nature Sanctuary in which the biotic community, especially the vegetation, is only slightly modified by man. It is a region of partial protection of nature and may be zoned to afford suitable range for roaming animals under full protection.
6. Research and Experimental Area—This usually implies modification and management of some of the biological elements.
7. Primitive Area (U.S. Forest Service sense)—This is defined as an area in which human transportation and conditions of living are kept primitive. Some of the areas are to be cut over periodically.
8. Wilderness Area—This is defined essentially as is primitive area.
IV. Availability of Nature Sanctuaries and Buffer Areas in North America
a. Nature Sanctuaries or Nature Reserves
1. Except for Desert and Tundra areas, conditions suitable for first and second class Nature Sanctuaries are available only in connection with National Parks and National Forests and (in rare instances) State Parks in the United States and in the National Parks and some Crown Lands and Provincial Forests and Parks in Canada.
2. In eastern North America few first class Nature Sanctuaries of national importance can be established because of the absence of the wolf, wapiti and some other species.
3. Status of Natural Areas in the U.S. National Forests. These have not been selected with consideration for animals. All are too small to contain roaming animals, but could suffice as Nature Sanctuaries, if necessary, when surrounded by high grade buffer areas in which the roaming animals are protected. To be of full value from the standpoint of primeval forest conditions and processes, all roaming animals must be allowed ingress, or abnormal conditions are likely to arise and defeat the purpose of the natural area from the standpoint of forestry.
4. Research Areas of Nature Sanctuaries in the National Parks. The remarks under No. 2 may possibly be applicable to the eastern National Parks.
5. State Parks, National Monuments (U.S.), private holdings, etc. will usually afford third class Nature Sanctuaries, but their maintenance in the condition in which found or with such improvements as may be possible, is all the more important.
b. Buffer Areas and Modified Sanctuaries in Different Biotic Types
1. Forested Areas
a. Areas reserved for experimental work for which the Nature Sanctuary serves as a check (e.g., in the case of Experimental Forests).
b. Areas devoted to recreation or serving as game refuges. (In the larger National, Provincial and State Parks and National, Provincial and State Forests.) There should be a zone of these types surrounding each Nature Sanctuary inside areas described under (c).
c. Areas in which there has been selective cutting, grazing approaching capacity, etc.
2. Woodland Areas
(a) Pinyon, Cedar, etc. The same principle holds as above.
3. Scrub Areas. Much scrub is said to have been produced by the invasion of grassland by shrubs belonging to arid or xeric areas through over-grazing. The herbs and grass of large areas of semi-desert scrub have been seriously damaged by over-grazing in western United States. Except in extreme desert these factors make the selection of scrub sanctuaries very difficult. Ideally, large modified areas should be fenced and allowed to return to the original conditions while buffered by an area of restricted grazing.
4. Grassland. There are now natural areas of some types of grassland in the National Forests and Range Reserves or Experimental Ranges, but often these cannot be buffered and are usually too small and lack the original large animals. Ideally, large areas should be buffered by grazing and experimental areas.
5. Semi-aquatic and Aquatic Areas. The buffer area should consist of developmental stages of terrestrial vegetation as far as a late sub-climax stage for the region.
V. Size of Sanctuaries and Relation to National Parks and Forests
1. The reserved areas in the National Parks are possibly too small, but in any event should be zoned about by (buffer) areas of complete or partial protection of the roaming animals. These zones of protection for certain animals would merely restrict occasional control measures to definite territory.
2. The forested natural areas in the National Forests are too small and should be enlarged in some cases, but must in all cases be surrounded by zones of complete or partial protection for the large roaming animals.
3. Areas should not be fenced against any of the large native animals, as their presence is necessary to make the conditions natural as regards vegetation, etc.
4. The Nature Sanctuary should be protected from fire, exotic organisms and diseases through management and preventive measures within the buffer area.
5. Size. The basis for size is purely biological and must be determined by biological conditions. The aims are (1) to preserve all the animals (birds, mammals and lower forms) native in the area and leave them to reproduce within the sanctuary entirely unmodified, and (2) to prevent trampling and other injury to the vegetation by man. The animals have to receive primary attention, but vegetation types must also be represented. Two types of sanctuary seem possible: 1. First class sanctuaries in which wolves, mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes, and migratory game are to be protected, and 2. Second class sanctuaries in areas where these animals have been exterminated or never existed (especially in the smaller parks and forests).
(1) First Class Sanctuaries and Buffer Zones for Animals
The animals requiring first and most careful consideration are the carnivores, likely to be unpopular with the agricultural (broad sense, including game culture) interests outside the park of forest.
The home range of these animals must be considered. That of the wolf is said to be 50 miles, the coyote 20 miles, the bobcat 10 miles, and the mountain lion 20 miles. These animals are slated for general extermination by some sportsmen and can be held unmolested only in areas within the larger well-buffered parks or remote wilderness areas of the national forests.
A second group demanding careful study is the migratory herbivores. These in combination with the carnivores (wolf, bobcat, and puma) will give most of the difficulty in selecting nature sanctuaries. Each sanctuary will constitute a problem in itself.
The terrain must be selected with great care wherever choice is possible so as to be about equally favorable to all the native species. The area should also meet with approval as a plant ecological reserve. Areas suitable for all the larger animals should be selected in the large parks, notably McKinley, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Rainer, etc. in the United States and Mt. Robson, Jasper, Rocky Mt., Strathcona, Algonquin, Quetico, etc. in Canada.
In so far as possible natural topography should be utilized to bound areas. Places remote from tourist travel without approach by roads or trails may be suitable without guards, but frequently some kind of guarding will be necessary. Each area will prove different in the problems encountered.
The sanctuaries may well be surrounded by areas in which there is some visitation by a limited number of persons. Each park will again be a special problem.
(2) Second and Third Class Sanctuaries
The same principles hold for the smaller sanctuaries as for the large ones, but the problems are much less difficult, because the larger animals cannot be given any special attention. They may be established in parks and forest of various types, but within the small state parks and reserves there can never be true Nature Sanctuaries because of the lack of the large animals.
(Notes: 1. It is necessary to recognize that the National Park Service is under some pressure to let everyone go anywhere in a national park. 2. The game of the U.S. National Forests, including that in the Primitive areas and Natural areas, belongs to the state in which the forest is located and is subject to trapping in some cases and to state predatory animal control in others. This is the greatest difficulty in making first class Nature Sanctuaries in the National Forest Natural areas. It will probably take some time to clear this up, either through the state or the federal government. Members of the Ecological Society should use every means to educate the public as to the value of sanctuaries so as to reduce and eliminate these difficulties.)
Excerpted from Environmental Policy and Biodiversity by R. Edward Grumbine. Copyright © 1994 Island Press. Excerpted by permission of ISLAND PRESS.
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|Preface and Acknowledgments|
|1||The Preservation of Natural Biotic Communities||25|
|2||What Is Conservation Biology?||35|
|3||What Do Genetics and Ecology Tell Us About the Design of Nature Reserves?||55|
|4||The Landscape Ecology of Large Disturbances in the Design and Management of Nature Reserves||75|
|5||Conservation Biology in Context: An Interview with Michael Soule||99|
|6||Taking Account of the Ecosystem on the Public Domain: Law and Ecology in the Greater Yellowstone Region (1989)||111|
|7||Six Biological Reasons Why the Endangered Species Act Doesn't Work - and What to Do About It (1991)||181|
|8||Response to: "Six Biological Reasons Why the Endangered Species Act Doesn't Work - and What to Do About It" (1992)||201|
|9||Defining the Role of Conservation Biology in the Law of Protecting Ecosystems (1994)||209|
|10||An Ecologist's View of Biodiversity Law: An Interview with David Wilcove (1994)||221|
|11||The Wildlands Project: Land Conservation Strategy (1992)||233|
|12||Science, Values, and Uncertainty: A Critique of The Wildlands Project (1994)||267|
|13||Conservation Through Coordination: California's Experiment in Bioregional Councils (1994)||273|
|14||The Natural Community Conservation Planning Program and the Coastal Sage Scrub Ecosystem of Southern California (1994)||281|
|15||Great Lakes Intergovernmental Cooperation: A Framework for Endangered Species Conservation (1993)||293|
|16||Forging an Ecosystem Management Plan for the Chattooga River Basin (1994)||303|
|17||Policy and Process: Ecosystem Management on Department of Defence Lands in Northern Florida (1994)||311|
|18||Uncertainty, Resource Exploitation, and Conservation: Lessons from History (1993)||327|
|19||Creating and Using Knowledge for Species and Ecosystem Conservation: Science, Organizations, and Policy (1993)||335|
|20||Setting the Political Agenda: Paradigmatic Shifts in Land and Water Policy (1994)||365|
|21||Mixing Conservation Biology with Grassroots Environmentalism: An Interview with Bonnie Phillips-Howard (1994)||379|
|An Ecological Denouement||387|
|About the Contributors||395|