Adapting research, management, and governance to confront socioecological uncertainties in novel ecosystems

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Wildland research, management, and policy in western democracies have long relied on concepts of equilibrium: succession, sustained yield, stable age or species compositions, fire return intervals, and historical range of variability critically depend on equilibrium assumptions. Not surprisingly, these largely static concepts form the basis for societal expectations, dominant management paradigms, and environmental legislation. Knowledge generation has also assumed high levels of stasis, concentrating on correlational patterns with the expectation that these patterns would be reliably transferrable. Changes in climate, the introduction of large numbers of exotic organisms, and anthropogenic land conversion are leading to unprecedented changes in disturbance regimes and landscape composition. Importantly, these changes are largely non-reversable; once introduced exotic species are seldom eradicated, climates will continue to warm for the foreseeable future, and many types of land conversion cannot be easily undone.

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