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considering ecological thresholds

Likewise, wildfire smoke displaces many species, challenging their continuation unless they are able to adapt quickly, or move toward situations that still enable them to meet each life stage and condition for survival. Do migratory species have an advantage or disadvantage in your example? What happens to pollinators? How about the timing of floral expression, bud/leaf recovery, rootworks, and the layers of green insulating, respiring, providing nutrition, recycling mineral and organic matter?

Natural phenomena of disturbance ecology—systemwide changes—also may occur from within a defined environment and cohort of living members. The biogeographical conditions of the landscape define recovery and resilience in nature, but what happens when thresholds have been crossed? How does restoration compare with the innate resilience of native ecosystems and all who coevolve—indeed thrive—as part of an interconnected whole? And, given mutual objectives, how clear is the path toward restoration? How do assemblages and communities appear over changing frames of reference; temporal, geographical, compositional or altered conditions?

As we move into a New Year and stronger collaborative potential, who is leading and what are the steps and outcomes along the way? We learn about input, feedback loops and circular processes from natural systems, and from our own roles as beings and members of larger associations. If the continuum embraces all the stories embedded in the derivation and wellbeing of a place—such as a cubic meter of native soil, aboveground and belowground organisms, atmosphere, hydrology, weather, climate, minerals, and any who interact, imprint, or visit the site—then the future is also represented by the whole. 

                    Time is not a line.

Out of mutual respect, please accept gratitude for extending the collective knowledge through your observations, for sharing your experiences, and for engaging in mutual, critical, and edifying conversation before more tipping points occur.

The 2023 New Year’s story considers tipping points, and what happens when thresholds have been crossed. Please accept the challenge to consider your own example, focusing on a story you know best!

When you draw even a simple web of relationship among several beings, then change the circumstances affecting:

 (1). the system or sphere embracing the needs and belonging/habitat of any; or, 

(2). the wellbeing of even one member, 

then you can probably fill your notebook with consequences and changes in a short time.

One example might manage for one species, e.g. creating an abundance of grazers, removing predators and changing native vegetation, thereby altering more than the food chain, cause-effect relationships, and apparent energetics of the system.  

There are cultural as well as external shifts to the very ways of relating within and to the whole, as well as impacts to individual and community aspects.

Removing an old growth tree that has fallen across a stream creates cascading effects to niches, habitat, landscape-level and overall expressions for species, cohorts or guilds, impacts to reproductive fitness--all as part of the biodiversity dynamic. 

Shaded banks allow native trout to spawn and cool the river, while nurse-logs and decomposed material promote seedling establishment, just to mention a few forest ecology/natural regeneration considerations. 

Do we understand linkages and flows, and how do we engage or participate in the very same for our own wellbeing?  

So many case studies catalogue what we have already lost, puzzling over the potential to restore even one member of a missing habitat to the greater biophysical realm that supports the ecosystem: the dynamic—never static—belonging to anything requires endless cycles of awareness, observation and learning. All must agree to do no further harm. The strongest outcome I can think of is never to exhaust innate resilience, to stay on the recovery side of any such threshold. Once the cascading effects appear, we are faced with the challenge of finding effective remedies within constantly shifting contexts, a multivalent and challenging process where decisions may come from external sources. 

Never to lose sight of the state of coevolving within a biosphere and the dancing belonging we recognize as home . . and so follows astute recognition of what is already missing  or in decline.  Such understanding carries a cumulative, often escalating sense of who no longer thrives alongside those who remain.

Some guiding perspectives on Biodiversity Education, Collaborative Projects, and Restoration Ecology:

All beings have a place in our unique mosaic of global habitats, where we contribute and interact as well as thrive or seek restoration: this belonging is an innate part of our biodiversity continuum.

At WILDLANDANCE, we focus on both the ecological and community context that creates belonging for all. This begins with listening to the land, water, sky, every living creature and landscape element, as well as to the perspectives brought forward as we learn about our natural surroundings and one another.

Everything has a resilience derived from both our unique place and our individual/community attributes; we are all engaged with the larger telling of who we are. We understand ourselves not as a collection of isolated puzzle fragments, but rather as an integrated whole that relies upon a dynamic and diverse world. 

We have tremendous responsibilities to sustain, restore and engage with this continuum.  Despite the prevalence of simplification, we understand our complex ecological context as an intricate and resilient web, one that relies upon mutuality and the reciprocity needed to sustain the whole.

Belonging & one of many relations

Th​is picture is from a drawing I did during my time as a young Forest Biology student, while waiting between seminars in the​ Natural Resources building at Colorado State University.

It was my first attempt to draw a Rocky Mountain Bighorn ram, the proud symbol of CSU. 

Though just a sketch, my father loved it; so I framed it for him. When he walked on in 1985, it was returned to me.  Then I gave it to my only surviving family member to share these roots, my brother who just lost a terrible battle with lymphoma earlier this year. 

 Yellowing and faded, still framed, the drawing I did decades ago has returned to me again.

The image was used to make a wildlife ecology study guide for my college students, which I later adapted to train and mentor the Habitat Team for Bighorn Sheep surveys in the Southern Rockies. 

While bac​kpacking in Colorado wilderness more than 30 years ago, I once awoke in the rose-lit dawn to the sound of bighorn rams sparri​ng, knocking their horns at speeds of up to 40 miles an hour against their double-boned forehead region. The echo among the wild Rawah Peaks was astounding.

For three years I worked on Bighorn habitat restoration, surveys, and collaborated with the State of New Mexico's Bighorn Biology team and Taos Pueblo Ecology Division program staff.   We completed an annual census, health and condition assessments, habitat evaluations, responded to emergencies, and assisted in the transplanting of young sheep to restoration sites throughout the State.  Initial projects were funded under the Tribe's biologist as part of a US Fish and Wildlife Service Tribal Wildlife Grant.  

Taos Pueblo's dedication and stewardship for this project provided an example to many.

Thanks to the US Forest Service for the following photo and details  from the Arapaho & Roosevelt page of the website

Rawah Wilderness: Arapaho & Roosevelt 

  • Located on the southern end of the Medicine Bow Mountain Range in north central Colorado, Rawah Wilderness was designated by the Wilderness Act of 1964 and now contains 73,868  acres. "Rawah" is a Native American term meaning "wild place."
  • Elevations in the Rawah Wilderness range from 8,400 to 13,000 feet. The high peaks were carved by glaciers, resulting in spectacular cirque lakes and moraines. There are twenty-five named lakes, ranging in size from five to 39 acres. This high alpine area contains the headwaters of the McIntyre, Rawah, and Fall Creeks, as well as the Laramie River.
Alpine lake in Rawah Wilderness.

The song of our ecological belonging resonates with every interconnected being, 

 just as our habitats reflect who dwells within them, while we ourselves identify 

with our habitat.  The web of our interactions is not only mutual, but reinforces 

every level of strength, understanding & resilience.

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