EEB events: LACEG: Biodiversity conservation in the tropics: Professor John Vandermeer
Brought to you by The Latin America and Caribbean Environmental Group
Professor John Vandermeer is a biologist who has been working in Latin America for over 30 years on themes ranging from agroecosystems, to tropical forest ecology, to conservation, to social justice movements. He lived for two years in Nicaragua during the Contra war, and was an editor of the anti-war newsletter of the "committee of US citizens living in Nicaragua -- CUSCLIN." He has also lived for extended periods of time in Brazil, Costa Rica and Mexico. He currently does research on the coffee agroecosystem and the relationship between biodiversity conservation and ecosystem function and the role of the small farming sector in both progressive social change and tropical conservation.
Movements for the conservation of tropical nature have sometimes been woefully ignorant of the social forces that combine to cause species extinctions, and thus have been unable to construct programs that are demonstrably successful in actual conservation. Much has been written about the sociopolitical nature of this ignorance and more recent conservation activities have been more sophisticated in taking local socio/economic/political forces into account in conservation activities. However, a different kind of ignorance remains to haunt the search for biodiversity conservation in the tropics. Fundamental ecological theory has long recognized the nature of local extinction from fragmented natural habitats as key to the preservation of individual species and has acknowledged the key role of migration among fragments as a mode of establishing metapopulation dynamics, a necessary condition for species preservation. Establishing conditions for such migratory potential is thus the central problem of tropical conservation, which implies a great deal about the nature of local political organization in tropical conservation activities.