21 February 2019
Raising extinct species may bring balance to wildlife
Published online 24 August 2014
The stability of ecological communities is at stake, considering current alarming rates of extinction for terrestrial species, and even more worrying future projections. But there’s hope the effects of defaunation can be reversed if scientists pursue more radical, albeit controversial, solutions, says a new study.
The rate of biodiversity loss is not slowing down under current conservation measures. More intensive forms of threatened species management, such as exploring de-extinction, should be considered, suggest zoologist Philip J. Seddon and his colleagues, publishing their findings in Science1.
They contend that a return to a completely natural world is not achievable, but the creation of a new one is. This can be achieved by introducing an appropriate substitute species into an ecological system to reestablish a function lost through extinction. Instead of focusing on creating pristine landscapes untouched by humans, such systems should try to create sustainable habitats that acknowledge and integrate humans.
The study examines several conservation translocations, and suggests harmonizing and combining “the misunderstood concept” of rewilding — the restoration of keystone species — with species reintroduction to restore ecosystems. It also suggests that de-extinction, the resurrection of extinct species using selective breeding or through synthetic biology, could broaden the range of species that conservationists can use to restore ecological balance.
- Seddon, P. J., Griffiths, C. J., Soorae, P. S. & Armstrong, D. P. Reversing defaunation: restoring species in a changing world. Science 345, 406–412 (2014).