The global scale and rapidity of environmental change is challenging ecologists to reimagine their theoretical principles and management practices. Increasingly, historical ecological conditions are inadequate targets for restoration ecology, geographically circumscribed nature reserves are incapable of protecting all biodiversity, and the precautionary principle applied to management interventions no longer ensures avoidance of ecological harm. In addition, human responses to global environmental changes, such as migration, building of protective infrastructures, and land use change, are having their own negative environmental impacts. We use examples from wildlands, urban, and degraded environments, as well as marine and freshwater ecosystems, to show that human adaptation responses to rapid ecological change can be explicitly designed to benefit biodiversity. This approach, which we call “renewal ecology,” is based on acceptance that environmental change will have transformative effects on coupled human and natural systems and recognizes the need to harmonize biodiversity with human infrastructure, for the benefit of both.
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