Rubenstein et al., Pleistocene Park


2.      Donlan et al. propose populating North America (=N.A.) with African/Asian megafauna--lions, elephants, cheetahs, camels

3.      Create a facsimile (exact copy, a replica, likeness) of species assemblages 13,000 years ago

4.      Goals

         a.      Restore evolutionary and ecological potential lost in N.A. 13000 years ago

         b.      Improve ES functioning

         c.      Prevent extinction of species used a proxies

         d.      Moral grounds: Have moral obligation to make amends for overexploitation by our ancestors

         e.      Aesthetic grounds: These species are charismatic and exciting!

5.      Argue (presuppose?) flora/fauna of many NA ecosystems gone basically unchanged since end of Pleistocene

         a.      I did not see that argument

         b.      Rubenstein thinks this is not likely given 13,000 years for possible evolution



7.      Pleistocene rewilding with exotics will not restore evolutionary/ecological potential of native N.A. species

         a.      Except perhaps antelope and big-horn sheep who will benefit from predators they’ve been lacking?

         b.      Are the proxies, non-native exotics?

8.      Nor restore extinct megafauna and their ancient ecosystems

         a.      Because only using proxies and ecosystems have changed

9.      May jeopardize indigenous species and N.A. ecosystems

         a.      As proxies might be invasive?

10.    Money better spent on

         a.      Preserving threatened organisms in native habitats

         b.      Re-introducing them to places in historical range from which only recently extirpated

                   i.       So they oppose the tortoise restoration as it was 13,000 years ago?


11.    Traditional rewilding versus Pleistocene rewilding

12.    Distinguish traditional rewilding of recently extirpated (past several hundred years) species (captive bred – condors or wild caught-wolves)

         a.      Where reasonable to assume minimal evolutionary changes in target species and native habitats

13.    From Pleistocene rewilding = PRW

         a.      Introduce species descendant from species that occurred in that habitat but went extinct 13,000 years ago.

         b.      Or modern day ecological proxies of extinct Pleistocene species

         c.      PRW been tried in Siberia where bison, horses and muskox introduced to recreate grassland ecosystem of Pleistocene

                   i.       So far success unknown?


14.    PRW consequences unknown, could be catastrophic

         a.      Disrupt ecosystem functioning

         b.      Negatively impact native species

15.    Potential negative ecological effects of transplanting exotics species to nonnative habitats is well-known

         a.      But vast majority of nonnatives are relatively benign in new habitats.....

16.    Proxies are exotics: Argues these African/Asian megafauna would be “exotic” species in N.A.

         a.      Are they?

                   i.       Depends on whether or not there proxy species and the locals species (and abiota) have sufficiently interacted

         b.      Note PRW proponents are suggesting transplanting species related/similar to ones that went extinct, not totally different ones that could perform the same ecosystem services/functions

                   i.       Not suggesting transporting giraffes


17.    Examples of how PRW would restore ecological or evolutionary potential

         a.      Restore predators/predation on antelope or bighorn sheep (and this might lead to evolution of these prey species)

         b.      Restore herbivores (elephants, camels) to grasslands

                   i.       And they eat woody plants and help grasslands thrive

         c.      Evolutionary potential of relocated megafauna would be enhanced, as increase their number worldwide and this would increase changes for new evolutionary variants among them


18.    **PRW more likely to produce novel ecosystems with unique species compositions and new ecosystem functions

         a.      Rather than restore our contemporary wild ecosystems to the historic wild ecosystems of PL

         b.      Also since we don’t know how PL ecosystems functioned, no way to determine if we’ve restored them or just disrupted contemporary ecosystems


19.    Some practical worries

20.    About the specific proxy species proposed

         a.      Reintroduced camels did not survive for long in the deserts of the American West

         b.      Could African megafauna, especially large carnivores, really populate the same areas?

         c.      *Would the genetically depauperate cheetah succumb to novel diseases?

         d.      *Would elephants survive the harsh prairie winters, lacking the thick coats of their mastodon ancestors

21.    Can’t tell if grazers/predators will be beneficial or harmful to these ecosystems

22.    The ecosystems where these megafauna would go are some of the most threatened and least protected ecosystems in the world

23.    Several attempts to restore horse/zebra species to native habitats have had mixed successes

         a.      Diseases, difference in env conditions, naivete toward predators have been problems

24.    Response to these worries is do smalls scale tests of effects

         a.      The idea is problematic as it could take a very long time to see effects and the range of some of the restored megafauna is huge


25.    Money/conservation effort better spend other ways

26.    Object to diverting attention from African/Asian conservation efforts (poorest places, but most biologically rich) to make amends for ecological excesses of our N.A. ancestors

27.    Preserving African and Asian megafauna does not require relocating them to N.A.

         a.      Money better spend preserving them in their native habitat

         b.      But have to admit it increase chances of their survival if they exist in more places and different continents

28.    **Better to restore extant species in N.A. to their historical ranges than bring back megafauna

         a.      Reintroduce Bison, pronghorn, elk, jack rabbits, prairie dogs black-footed ferrets, bobcats, foxes

         b.      If important to reintroduce charismatic megafauna, then we should restore wolves, grizzly bears, and cougars to former habitat


29.    Wildlife/human conflicts and public opposition to PRW

         a.      Locals and politicians often object to restore relatively benign large mammals (e.g., moose)

         b.      Consider objections to coyotes on Sullivan’s island

         c.      Lions kill many in Africa/Asia,

         d.      We have enough to worry about to address real concerns of mountain lions attacking joggers w/o lions and cheetahs


30.    Dis-analogy between Peregrine Falcon example of restoration via proxies and PRW

         a.      PL megafauna likely to be much more genetically distinct from modern day proxies

         b.      While common horse is genetically very similar to ancestral horses, cheetahs, elephants and lions quite genetically different.


31.    Costs

         a.      PRW costly; land acquisition, translocation, monitor, protection, containment

                   i.       And more expensive in N.A. than in Africa/Asia

         b.      Compete for $ with more local conservation efforts

         c.      True it might ignite public/political support to increase $ for conservation worldwide

                   i.       But other less risky ideas might do this too

         d.      Costly enough that if massive efforts/funds available for PRW, would be better spend on conserving native populations in of megafauna in Africa, Asia, and N.A. in native habitat.


32.    Analogy to Jurassic Park

         a.      Re-wilding of extinct dinosaurs recreated from ancient DNA

         b.      PRW only slightly less sensational proposal

                   i.       It does not involve genetic engineering

                   ii.      Time frame very different 13,000 versus 150 million years ago


33.    Like proposing two wrongs make a right

         a.      Proxy species are wrong (genetically different)

                   i.       So not restoring evolutionary potential of extinct megafauna

         b.      Ecosystems wrong (different in composition from Peistocene ecosystems)

                   i.       Not restore ecological potential of modern NA ecosystems as they have continued to evolve.

         c.      *Admit might enhance evolutionary potential of native N.A. prey that have lacked appropriate predators since Pleistocene

         d.      3rd wrong: Adding these exotic species could potentially devastate populations of native plants/animals


Question on Rubenstein, Pleistocene Park


1.      What is the difference between traditional rewilding, Pleistocene rewilding, and de-extinction?

2.      Are the species proposed for rewilding North America, exotic or native species? What does this depend upon?

3.      How might PRW restore ecological and evolutionary potential? Give examples.

4.      What is a “novel ecosystem?” Why does Rubenstein claim PRW would create such ecosystems rather than restore old ecosystems?

5.      What is Rubenstein et al.’s response to claim PRW will help preserve the proxy species?

6.      Are the worries about human/wildlife conflicts resulting from PRW significant in your opinion?

7.      How might PRW ignite public support for increased funding of environmental protection worldwide? Is this a strong consideration?

8.      In what ways is PRW like Jurassic Park and in what ways not?