Research Topic

Conserving Cultural Ecosystems: The Biodiversity and Ecosystem Service Provision of Semi-Natural Anthropogenic Ecosystems versus Natural Ecosystems

About this Research Topic

The acceleration of global damage to biodiversity and ecosystem services is demonstrated starkly in the most recent IPBES Global Assessment. It presents the protection of nature and its ecosystem services as the defining challenge of the 21st century and states that the most important driver of destruction is how humans directly use the land and sea. This also exacerbates other drivers such as climate change. In parallel, the social sciences are urgently exploring how people’s lost connections with nature can fuel mental health problems. Overall this creates a strong scientific consensus of the importance of protecting and restoring “naturalness”. In some respects this chimes well with approaches such as the rewilding of agricultural land to wild natural forest and restoring natural processes. However, this creates a conservation challenge across the world in regions where biodiversity is greatest in cultural ecosystems, where millennia of farming have created semi-natural woods, heaths and pastures.

The goal of this Research Topic is to share and integrate perspectives from natural scientists and social scientists on if and how the biodiversity and ecosystem service provision of semi-natural anthropogenic ecosystems can be conserved. This Research Topic will consider the ecological and societal consequences of the loss of species and ecosystems that follow in the footsteps of humanity's traditional agriculture. Some articles will present current approaches to their conservation and others will evaluate alternatives. The Research Topic will also explore the consequences of shifting societal relationships with nature for the conservation and evolution of cultural ecosystems. The value of cultural ecosystems relative to natural systems will be an important reflection point threading through the articles in this Research Topic. This will provide scientists, conservation practitioners, land managers and policy makers with a multidisciplinary resource that sets the context for the conservation of cultural ecosystems in terms of costs and contributions to nature and UN Sustainable Development Goals.

We welcome contributions from the natural and social sciences and from conservation practice that examine the mechanisms, opportunities, benefits and constraints of conserving cultural ecosystems. Contributions can be in the form of original research data papers, opinion pieces or reviews. The ecosystems can be terrestrial or aquatic systems and from anywhere in the world. To foster multidisciplinary integration of perspectives, we particularly encourage authors to reflect on the comparative value of semi-natural and natural ecosystems in their discussions.

Specific themes include but are not restricted to:

• Comparison of the potential for semi-natural versus natural ecosystems to contribute to global biodiversity, ecosystem service provision, socioeconomic gains and human wellbeing;
• Methods for conserving and restoring cultural ecosystem biodiversity, function and ecosystem service provisions;
• Developing feedback loops between human well-being and biodiversity conservation in cultural ecosystems;
• Alternative futures for cultural ecosystems and consequences for nature conservation and people.


Keywords: Valuing nature, rewilding, heathland, grasslands


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

The acceleration of global damage to biodiversity and ecosystem services is demonstrated starkly in the most recent IPBES Global Assessment. It presents the protection of nature and its ecosystem services as the defining challenge of the 21st century and states that the most important driver of destruction is how humans directly use the land and sea. This also exacerbates other drivers such as climate change. In parallel, the social sciences are urgently exploring how people’s lost connections with nature can fuel mental health problems. Overall this creates a strong scientific consensus of the importance of protecting and restoring “naturalness”. In some respects this chimes well with approaches such as the rewilding of agricultural land to wild natural forest and restoring natural processes. However, this creates a conservation challenge across the world in regions where biodiversity is greatest in cultural ecosystems, where millennia of farming have created semi-natural woods, heaths and pastures.

The goal of this Research Topic is to share and integrate perspectives from natural scientists and social scientists on if and how the biodiversity and ecosystem service provision of semi-natural anthropogenic ecosystems can be conserved. This Research Topic will consider the ecological and societal consequences of the loss of species and ecosystems that follow in the footsteps of humanity's traditional agriculture. Some articles will present current approaches to their conservation and others will evaluate alternatives. The Research Topic will also explore the consequences of shifting societal relationships with nature for the conservation and evolution of cultural ecosystems. The value of cultural ecosystems relative to natural systems will be an important reflection point threading through the articles in this Research Topic. This will provide scientists, conservation practitioners, land managers and policy makers with a multidisciplinary resource that sets the context for the conservation of cultural ecosystems in terms of costs and contributions to nature and UN Sustainable Development Goals.

We welcome contributions from the natural and social sciences and from conservation practice that examine the mechanisms, opportunities, benefits and constraints of conserving cultural ecosystems. Contributions can be in the form of original research data papers, opinion pieces or reviews. The ecosystems can be terrestrial or aquatic systems and from anywhere in the world. To foster multidisciplinary integration of perspectives, we particularly encourage authors to reflect on the comparative value of semi-natural and natural ecosystems in their discussions.

Specific themes include but are not restricted to:

• Comparison of the potential for semi-natural versus natural ecosystems to contribute to global biodiversity, ecosystem service provision, socioeconomic gains and human wellbeing;
• Methods for conserving and restoring cultural ecosystem biodiversity, function and ecosystem service provisions;
• Developing feedback loops between human well-being and biodiversity conservation in cultural ecosystems;
• Alternative futures for cultural ecosystems and consequences for nature conservation and people.


Keywords: Valuing nature, rewilding, heathland, grasslands


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

30 November 2020 Abstract
31 March 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

30 November 2020 Abstract
31 March 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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