What Do We Talk About When We Talk About Biodiversity Conservation in the Anthropocene?

George Holmes

Abstract

Planetary changes associated with the Anthropocene challenge long-established ideas and approaches within biodiversity conservation, such as wilderness, wildness, native and exotic species, species and ecosystem diversity, and what counts as success in biodiversity conservation. This article reviews and analyzes how the Anthropocene is being used within the literature on biodiversity conservation. It finds that the idea of a new epoch has been used to frame a broad range of new approaches and concepts to understanding and stemming the loss of biodiversity. These new ideas are diverse and sometimes contradictory, embracing a range of ethical values and positions. Yet the term Anthropocene is not widely used within the biodiversity conservation literature. Despite the cross-disciplinary nature of the Anthropocene, interdisciplinary research on these new concepts and approach is rare, and the insights of the humanities are almost entirely absent. Debates about conservation in the Anthropocene are a continuation of long-running controversies within conservation, such as how it should relate to human development, and over the concept of wilderness. Overall, this review demonstrates that the literature on biodiversity conservation in the Anthropocene is not well established, is both diverse and new, while echoing longstanding debates in conservation, and it indicates the direction such literature might take in future.

Keywords: Anthropocene, assisted migration, biodiversity, biotic homogenization, conservation, development, novel ecosystems, rewilding

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3167/ares.2015.060106

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