Traveling back from the 2016 Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America, I was struck by how well the meeting theme ‘Novel Ecosystems in the Anthropocene’ resonated through the presentations (a second theme was seafood – see below). Not all, but a large number of organized sessions and symposia were organized around the meeting theme such as ‘Rising Novelty in Ecosystems and Climates: Looking to the Past to Understand a No-Analog Future’, ‘Novel Ecosystems and Adaptive Management: Sustainability in the Anthropocene’, and ‘Ecological Novelty in the Anthropocene: Are Novel Communities Novel Ecosystems?’. I didn’t get to most of these, and my own presentation on weed seedling emergence was clearly off-topic, but the social media buzz was all about the theme. All of this sharpened my thinking and awareness of the topic, and, as I listened to presentations, it became clear that while a full understanding and appreciation of the theme among ecologists is emerging, a consensus on how we can apply knowledge from studying and characterizing modern and past ‘novel ecosystems’ is still unclear. Are novel ecosystems systems unique (i.e., ‘no-analog’) only to the recent human-characterized past (i.e., the Anthropocene), or must they have never existed in the deeper past? Do we characterize novel ecosystems by their species assemblage, functional traits, or ecosystem services (or some combination)? Do we manage for novel ecosystems, or are we to accept that they are characteristic of the current biosphere that we have to ‘live with’?
Here we present interviews with three ecologists that I ran into at ESA. All are Journal of Ecology Associate Editors so each has a good sense for some of the best research being conducted and published. Charlie Canham and Emily Farrer are also co-authors on a couple of the papers that the British Ecological Society included in a Virtual Issue made available to celebrate the ESA meeting theme. I asked the same set of questions to each, albeit with unique follow-ups, but, as you’ll hear, heard a distinctly different, but informed, take. Clearly, the meeting theme is important and relevant, and it’s very interesting to learn how different ecologists view it.
Interview with Charlie Canham
Interview with Jacquelyn Gill
Interview with Emily Farrer
Now, about that seafood theme:
Executive Editor, Journal of Ecology