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november, 2018

01nov4:00 pmConservation Scaling From Neighborhoods to Landscapes

Event Details

Abstract: A central question in conservation science is “What allows a species to persist and conversely, what causes it to disappear?” The answer to the ecological side of the question depends on factors such as species’ life history and behavioral constraints, its role in ecological communities, and its sensitivity to landscape change. The relative importance of these sorts of ecological processes varies with scale. The conservation answer depends on the match between ecological scaling and conservation scaling: the extent to which conservation measures are effective at multiple spatial and temporal scales.  I will discuss how most paradigms in conservation, for example sustainable use, ecotourism, and endangered species conservation are confronted with challenges related to scaling and mismatch. In particular, our research on a micro-endemic habitat specialist, the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard (Sceloporus arenicolus), lends insight to challenges of conservation scaling. Meticulous ecological studies reveal how population dynamics in these lizards scale from local neighborhoods of interacting individuals up to the distribution of the species across its geographic range. Moreover, the condition and configuration of irreplaceable landforms are directly linked to population vital rates, neighborhood vitality, and persistence of populations. The Mescalero Dune Ecosystem, where these lizards and other endemic species exist, overlies the Permian Basin, a region beset with increasing and extensive fragmentation from oil and gas development, and sand mining for fracking. Landscape fragmentation lands a double whammy by disrupting both the geomorphologic processes that maintain dunes and the diffusion-dispersal dynamics that connect lizard neighborhoods. Conservation measures are (sort of) in place that call for localized habitat protection. However, the extent of these measures does not match the dynamics of ecological scaling in this system and probably will not confront the higher-level problem of fragmentation that drives species disappearance.  The mismatch between conservation scaling and ecological scaling is a pervasive challenge to achieving biodiversity conservation. Conservation scientists and practitioners might benefit from embracing the realities of conservation scaling, and taking advantage of scaling opportunities and planning for scaling limits of conservation interventions.

Refreshments will be served.

Parking Notice: Lot E-46 is a UIUC campus parking lot. Campus parking permits for lots north of Kirby/Florida work in E-46. Visitors may park in metered parking.

There are slots open to meet with Dr. Fitzgerald while he is in town. Anyone interested in doing so should contact host Adam Landon by email at


(Thursday) 4:00 pm


Conference Room 1005