Megafauna extinctions and what they mean for understanding our relationship with nature #oxmegafauna
Here is some media coverage about our Oxford megafauna conference
George Monbiot has a piece in the Guardian pondering the meaning of the Pleistocene megafaunal extinctions on what it means to be human and how we understand our relationship to nature.
Is this all humans are? Diminutive monsters of death and destruction?
New research suggests that there was never a state of grace. We have always been the nemesis of the planet's wildlife
And a piece on BBC news reviews some of the discussions we had on the evidence of human cause of the extinctions, and what the consequences were for ecosystem function.
Ecologists learn lessons from the 'ghosts of megafauna'
As I say in the BBC piece, I find the evidence that humans had the primary role in causing the Pleistocene extinctions pretty convincing (with the possible exception of Eurasia, where climate change drove down populations in refugia and humans played a role in preventing these species from bouncing back as they had done in previous periods of climate change).
As for what it means for our sense of our place in nature, I think Monbiot is right in identifying that there never was a golden age in our relationship with the rest of nature. Probably for millions of years and certainly for tens of thousands of years we have been a new kind of superpredator, and thereby been disrupting ecosystems around us and driving species to extinction, either directly through hunting or indirectly through habitat change and trophic cascades. This does not negate our need to reverse the tide of destruction, but it is perhaps better to do so with the wide-eyed clarity of understanding the deep history of our impact on the environment than has accompanied our rise as a species, rather than harking back to a prehistoric golden age that never was.
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Yadvinder Malhi is an ecosytem ecologist and Professor of Ecosystem Science at Oxford University