Indian American ecologist proposes ‘human-centric’ maps of ecosystemsNovember 27th, 2007 - 2:15 pm ICT by admin
Washington, Nov 27 (ANI): An Indian American ecologist and a colleague have proposed a radically new system of ‘human-centric’ maps of ecosystems of the world, which can prove to be an alternative to the current system of classification.
The idea, put forward by Navin Ramankutty, an Assistant Professor of the Department of Geography and Earth System Science Program, McGill University in Canada and Professor Erle Ellis of UMBC asserts that the current system of classifying ecosystems into biomes or ecological communities like tropical rainforests, grasslands and deserts is misleading.
Instead, both have proposed an entirely new model of human-centered ‘anthropogenic’ biomes.
According to researchers, ecologists pay too much attention to increasingly rare unspoiled ecosystems, while ignoring the overwhelming influence of humans on the environment.
“Ecologists go to remote parts of the planet to study pristine ecosystems, but no one studies it in their back yard,” said Ramankutty, who has done his Bachelors in Engineering from the P.S.G. College of Technology in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu.
“It’s time to start putting instrumentation in our back yards to study what’s going on there in terms of ecosystem functioning,” he added.
Existing biome classification systems are based on natural-world factors such as plant structures, leaf types, plant spacing and climate.
For example, the Bailey System, developed in the 1970’s, divides North America into four climate-based biomes: polar, humid temperate, dry and humid tropical. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) ecological land classification system identifies 14 major biomes, including tundra, boreal forests, temperate coniferous forests and deserts and xeric shrublands.
But, Ellis and Ramankutty propose a radically new system of anthropogenic biomes dubbed ‘anthromes’, which includes residential rangelands, dense settlements, villages and croplands.
“Over the last million years, we have had glacial-interglacial cycles, with enormous changes in climate and massive shifts in ecosystems,” said Ramankutty. “The human influence on the planet today is almost on the same scale. Nearly 30 to 40% of the world’s land surface today is used just for growing food and grazing animals to serve the human population,” he added.
“If you want to think about going into a sustainable future and restoring ecosystems, we have to accept that humans are here to stay. Humans are part of the package, and any restoration has to include human activities in it,” said Ramankutty. (ANI)
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