Overcoming the disconnect: are paleolimnologists doing enough to make their science accessible to aquatic managers and conservationists?
Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution
Progress in adaptive management and conservation of ecosystems cannot take place without direct collaboration between academics and practitioners. Hence, one of the most important challenges facing the development of sustainable solutions to current and future environmental problems is finding ways to bridge the gap between fundamental research and applied management, conservation and restoration of ecosystems. Here, I call on the paleolimnological community to help adaptive management move
... management move forward by making a more effective contribution of academic advancements on long-term aquatic ecology to the resolution of environmental problems. I present a personal view of how forging more links with environmental managers, conservationists, and the public, and by more effectively adapting and sharing our data and tools, can advance sustainable solutions to the many problems facing aquatic ecosystems all over the world. Because of their essential nature, freshwaters have always been significantly impacted by human activities. Today, countless lakes, wetlands and rivers require that efforts be made to restore their health and through this, hopefully, the ecosystem services they provide. The task is overwhelming and many lake-types are notoriously difficult to manage and restore (e.g., shallow lakes: Jeppesen et al., 2007; tropical lakes: Lewis, 2000). For this reason, a vast number of people from various fields and with assorted competences must be involved and work together toward common goals. To achieve this, they must find common process and purpose in their interactions. Over the past decades, the case has been amply made in the scientific literature for the usefulness of paleolimnology in assessing aquatic ecosystem health and aiding the management of lakes (e.g., see Bennion et al., 2011 and references therein). Doubtless the paleolimnological research community is largely convinced of the paramount value of the long-term perspective that the investigation of lake sediment archives can provide to inform sound management practices and develop realistic restoration targets. It is true that paleolimnology has already made great strides over the past 30 years to become more widely accepted, especially within other related scientific disciplines. However, discussions with colleagues and a recent brief incursion into the world of environmental conservation NGOs made me realize that paleolimnology is unfortunately not yet the household word that we would wish it to be within conservation circles. Paleolimnology still remains too infrequently used in aquatic and wildlife management practices. This led me to reflect on how we as paleolimnologists, could find ways to make our tools and data more user-friendly to managers and conservationists of aquatic environments. Moreover, through this process, I asked myself how we can better promote the idea that the integration of the paleolimnological approach is paramount in the development of sound environmental management strategies and policies. If we wish paleolimnology to enable science-based decision making for improving