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Should We Move the Whitebark Pine? Assisted Migration, Ethics and Global Environmental Change

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Some species face extinction if they are unable to keep pace with climate change. Yet proposals to assist threatened species' poleward or uphill migration ('assisted migration') have caused significant controversy among conservationists, not least because assisted migration seems to threaten some values, even as it protects others. To date, however, analysis of ethical and value questions about assisted migration has largely remained abstract, removed from the ultimately pragmatic decision about whether or not to move a particular species. This paper uses the case study of the whitebark pine, a keystone species of sub-alpine habitats in western North America, to consider how particular cases of assisted migration may be ethically approached. After taking into account the value of species, wildness, place, ecosystems, culture and sentient animals, we conclude that, on balance, there appear to be good reasons to move the whitebark pine.
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Keywords: assisted migration; ecosystem values; place values; sentience; whitebark pine; wildness

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2014-12-01

More about this publication?
  • Environmental Values is an international peer-reviewed journal that brings together contributions from philosophy, economics, politics, sociology, geography, anthropology, ecology and other disciplines, which relate to the present and future environment of human beings and other species. In doing so we aim to clarify the relationship between practical policy issues and more fundamental underlying principles or assumptions.

    Environmental Values has a Journal Impact Factor (2016) of 1.279.
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