I have established that Predator Free 2050 (PF2050) is not scientifically rational because it can’t be done and carries with it extraordinary scientific, political and social risks for gains that are less than required to address our nation’s environmental and biodiversity challenges.
Instead of PF2050 it would be more sensible, lower risk and increase our chances of sustained biodiversity conservation if we worked with current technologies and took their gradual, incremental improvements as a bonus.
Fortunately, there is a rational and scientific alternative, developed over the last 50 years, and it is called Integrated Landscape and Pest Management.
First, we have proven that it is possible to protect our most vulnerable biodiversity in sanctuaries and reserves.
Second, we know how to scientifically manage predators around those sanctuaries, the halo, so that it supports greater numbers of our less vulnerable biodiversity.
These zones also provide us opportunities to investigate other ways of reducing the impact of depredation across larger areas where predators cannot be eradicated. Conservationists have largely equated depredation as solvable only by killing predators but ecology is complex and tells us something very different.
All native prey are not equally vulnerable and similarly vulnerable in all habitats. And predator control doesn’t benefit all native species. NZ ecologists haven’t asked as much about the science of how habitat can be managed and grown to reduce depredation’s impact (e.g., refugia and compensatory reproduction) while expanding biodiversity spatial range because it allows coexistence with predators. We should investigate these ecologically rich themes with greater effort rather than the jingoism and slogans of PF2050.
Third, we also know how to manage those sanctuaries and their halos as a connected national network of biodiversity using landscape corridors and transfers.
Last, but most importantly, we know how to reverse the decline of New Zealand’s indigenous biodiversity in the 67% of our country that is our farmed and urban landscapes.
These things are possible, achievable with current technology and a modest increase in conservation budgets, and they would deliver greater biodiversity gains than PF 2050 at less cost and with fewer scientific, political and social risks.
Integrated Landscape Management and Integrated Pest Management includes some predator control because it is a necessary part of the solution but incorporates a greater number of objectives and diversity of approaches at the different scales at which they can be most effective, including habitat enhancement and the management of predator-prey biological communities.
Ecological science knows how to do this stuff well and we do a lot of it already. We just need to scale it up and coordinate it better nationally.
In arriving at PF 2050 we have ignored that science, expertise and experience and sacrificed it for an impossible and expensive but under-resourced political strategy.
PF2050 might be “exciting” but it is not rational.
Featured image: Buffy May / flickr.