Environmental Management

, Volume 55, Issue 6, pp 1217–1226 | Cite as

What is Novel About Novel Ecosystems: Managing Change in an Ever-Changing World

  • Amy M. Truitt
  • Elise F. GranekEmail author
  • Matthew J. Duveneck
  • Kaitlin A. Goldsmith
  • Meredith P. Jordan
  • Kimberly C. Yazzie


Influenced by natural climatic, geological, and evolutionary changes, landscapes and the ecosystems within are continuously changing. In addition to these natural pressures, anthropogenic drivers have increasingly influenced ecosystems. Whether affected by natural or anthropogenic processes, ecosystems, ecological communities, and ecosystem functioning are dynamic and can lead to “novel” or “emerging” ecosystems. Current literature identifies several definitions of these ecosystems but lacks an unambiguous definition and framework for categorizing what constitutes a novel ecosystem and for informing decisions around best management practices. Here we explore the various definitions used for novel ecosystems, present an unambiguous definition, and propose a framework for identifying the most appropriate management option. We identify and discuss three approaches for managing novel ecosystems: managing against, tolerating, and managing for these systems, and we provide real-world examples of each approach. We suggest that this framework will allow managers to make thoughtful decisions about which strategy is most appropriate for each unique situation, to determine whether the strategy is working, and to facilitate decision-making when it is time to modify the management approach.


Anthropogenic Ecosystem services Eradication Management No-analog Tolerate 



This paper developed out of class discussions and research conducted during a graduate seminar on Novel Ecosystems at Portland State University, Department of Environmental Science and Management. We thank the following classmates for insightful thoughts and conversations that contributed to the development of this paper: Sara Copp, Tim Elder, Laura Hill, Felipe Ferreira, and Brianna Tarnower. The paper has been much improved based on comments by three anonymous reviewers.


  1. Bendevis MA, Owens MK, Heilman JL, McInnes KJ (2010) Carbon exchange and water loss from two evergreen trees in a semiarid woodland. Ecohydrology 3:107–115Google Scholar
  2. Blackburn TM, Pysek P, Bacher S, Carlton JT, Duncan RP, Jarosik V, Wilson JRU, Richardson DM (2011) A proposed unified framework for biological invasions. Trends Ecol Evol 26:333–339CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Blight LK, Ainley DG (2008) Southern ocean not so pristine. Science 12:1443CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Britton JR, Gozlan RE, Copp GH (2011) Managing non-native fish in the environment. Fish Fish 12:256–274. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-2979.2010.00390 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Buchanan JB, Gutierrez RJ, Anthony RG, Cullinan T, Diller LV, Forsman ED, Franklin AB (2007) A synopsis of suggested approaches to address potential competitive interactions between barred owls (Strix varia) and spotted owls (S. occidentalis). Biol Invas 9:679–691CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Connelly NA, O’Neill CR, Knuth BA, Brown TL (2007) Economic impacts of zebra mussels on drinking water treatment and electric power generation facilities. Environ Manage 40:105–112CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cox PA (1983) Extinction of the Hawaiian avifauna resulted in a change of pollinators for the ieie, Freycinetia arborea. Oikos 41:195–199CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Crawford SS, Muir AM (2008) Global introductions of salmon and trout of the genus Oncorhynchus: 1870–2007. Rev Fish Biol Fish 18:313–344CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Crumley CL (1987) “Historical ecology” regional dynamics: Burgundian landscapes in historical perspectives. Academic Press Inc., San Diego, pp 237–264Google Scholar
  10. Davis MB, Shaw RG (2001) Range shifts and adaptive responses to quaternary climate change. Science 292:673–679CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Doney SC, Ruckelshaus M, Duffy JE, Barry JP, Chan F, English CA, Galindo HM, Grebmeier JM, Hollowed AB, Knowlton N, Polovina J, Rabalais NN, Sydeman WJ, Talley LD (2012) Climate change impacts on marine ecosystems. Ann Rev Mar Sci 4:11–37CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Duveneck MJ, Scheller RM (2014) Climate suitability planting as a strategy for maintaining forest productivity and functional diversity. Ecol Appl. doi: 10.1890/14-0738.1
  13. Ellison AM, Bank MS, Clinton BD, Colburn EA, Elliott K, Ford CR, Foster DR, Kloeppel BD, Knoepp JD, Lovett GM, Mohan J, Orwig DA, Rodenhouse NL, Sobczak WV, Stinson KA, Stone JK, Swan CM, Thompson J, Von Holle B, Webster JR (2005) Loss of foundation species: consequences for the structure and dynamics of forested ecosystems. Front Ecol Env 3:479–486CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Goldstein JH, Pejchar L, Daily G (2008) Using return-on-investment to guide restoration: a case study from Hawaii. Cons Lett 1:236–243CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Goulson D (2003) Effects of introduced bees on native ecosystems. Ann Rev Ecol Evol System 34:1–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gray LK, Gylander T, Mbogga MS, Chen P-Y, Hamann A (2010) Assisted migration to address climate change: recommendations for aspen reforestation in western Canada. Ecol Appl 21:1591–1603CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hale CM, Frelich LE, Reich PB, Pastor J (2005) Effects of European earthworm invasion on soil characteristics in northern hardwood forests of Minnesota, USA. Ecosystems 8:911–927CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Harwell HD, Kingsley-Smith PR, Kellogg ML, Allen SM, Allen SK Jr, Meritt DW, Paynter KT Jr, Luckenbach MW (2010) A comparison of Crassostrea virginica and C. ariakensis in Chesapeake Bay: Does oyster species affect habitat function? J Shellfish Res 29:253–269CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hendrix PF, Callaham MA Jr, Drake JM, Huang C-Y, James SW et al (2008) Pandora’s box contained bait: the global problem of introduced earthworms. Annu Rev Ecol Evol Syst 39:593–613CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hobbs RJ, Arico S, Aronson J, Baron JS, Bridgewater P, Cramer VA, Epstein PR, Ewel JJ, Klink CA, Lugo AE, Norton D, Ojima D, Richardson DM, Sanderson EW, Valladares F, Vila M, Zamora R, Zobel M (2006) Novel ecosystems: theoretical and management aspects of the new ecological world order. Glob Ecol Biogeo 15:1–7CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hobbs RJ, Higgs E, Harris J (2009) Novel ecosystems: implications for conservation and restoration. Trends Ecol Evol 24:599–605CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hobbs RJ, Hallett LM, Ehrlich PR, Mooney H (2011) Intervention Ecology: applying ecological science in the twenty-first century. Bioscience 61:442–450CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hobbs RJ, Higgs E, Hall C (eds) (2013) Novel ecosystems. Intervening in the new ecological world order. Wiley-Blackwell, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  24. Hobbs RJ et al (2014) Managing the whole landscape: historical, hybrid, and novel ecosystems. Front Ecol Env 12:557–564CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Holtgrieve GW, Schindler DE, Hobbs WO, Leavitt PR, Ward EJ, Bunting L, Chen G, Finney BP, Gregory-Eaves I, Holmgren S, Lisac MJ, Lisi PJ, Nydick K, Rogers LA, Saros JE, Selbie DT, Shapley MD, Walsh PB, Wolfe AP (2011) A coherent signature of anthropogenic nitrogen deposition to remote watersheds of the Northern Hemisphere. Science 334:1545–1548CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Jenkins RT (1996) Trade and exotic species introductions. Cons Bio 10:300–302CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Keane RE, Hessburg PF, Landres PB, Swanson FJ (2009) The use of historical range and variability (HRV) in landscape management. Forest Ecol Manage 258:1025–1037CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kimmelman M (2013) Going with the flow. The New York Times, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  29. Kinloch BB (2003) White pine blister rust in north america: past and prognosis. Phytopathology 93:1044–1047CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kuhn TJT, Kenneth W, Cao D, George MR (2007) Juniper removal may not increase overall Klamath River Basin water yields. Calif Agric 61:166–171CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Laffertty KD, Kuris AM (1996) Biological control of marine pests. Ecology 77:1989–2000CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Lane J (1993) Over wintering monarch butterflies in California: past and present. Nat Hist Mus Los Angel Cty Sci Ser 38:335–344Google Scholar
  33. Lindenmayer DB, Fischer J, Felton A, Crane M, Michael D, Macgregor C, Montague-Drake R, Manning A, Hobbs RJ (2008) Novel ecosystems resulting from landscape transformation create dilemmas for modern conservation practice. Cons Lett 1:129–135CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Magurran AE, Baillie SR, Buckland ST, Dick JM, Elston DA, Scott EM, Smith RI, Somerfield PJ, Watt AD (2010) Long-term datasets in biodiversity research and monitoring: assessing change in ecological communities through time. Trends Ecol Evol 25:574–582CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Maloy OC (1997) White pine blister rust control in North America: a case history. Ann Rev Phytopath 35:87–109CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Martin LJ, Blossey B, Ellis E (2012) Mapping where ecologists work: biases in the global distribution of terrestrial ecological observations. Front Ecol Environ 10:195–201CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Melo FPL, Arroyo-Rodríguez V, Fahrig L, Martínez-Ramos M, Tabarelli M (2013) On the hope for biodiversity-friendly tropical landscapes. Trends Ecol Evol 28:462–468CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Milton SJ (2003) ‘Emerging ecosystems’: a washing-stone for ecologists, economists and sociologists. S Afr J Sci 99:404–406Google Scholar
  39. Morse NB, Pellissier PA, Cianciola EN, Brereton RL, Sullivan MM, Shonka NK, Wheeler TB, McDowell WH (2014) Novel ecosystems in the Anthropocene: a revision of the novel ecosystem concept for pragmatic applications. Ecol Soc 19:12CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Moss JA, Burreson EM, Cordes JF, Cungan CF, Brown GD, Wang A, Wu X, Reece KS (2007) Pathogens in Crassostrea ariakensis and other Asian oyster species: implications for non-native oyster introduction in Chesapeake Bay. Dis Aquat Org 77:207–233CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Murcia C, Aronson J, Kattan GH, Moreno-Mateos D, Dixon K, Simberloff D (2014) A critique of the “novel ecosystem” concept. Trends Ecol Evol 29:548–553CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Owens MK (2008) Juniper tree impacts on local water budgets. In: Van Auken OW (ed) Western North American Juniperus communities ecological studies. Springer, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  43. Palmer AR (1983) The decade of North American geology 1983 geological time scale. Geology 11:503–504CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Pauly D (1995) Anecdotes and the shifting base-line syndrome of fisheries. Trends Ecol Evol 10:430CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Pejchar L, Mooney HA (2009) Invasive species, ecosystem services and human well-being. Trends Ecol Evol 24:497–504CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Pickett STA, Kolasa G, Jones CG (1994) Ecological understanding: the nature of theory and the theory of nature. Academic Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  47. Ravenscroft C, Scheller RM, Mladenoff DJ, White MA (2010) Simulating forest restoration in a mixed ownership landscape under climate change. Ecol Appl 20:327–346CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Richardson DM, Pysek P, Rejmánek M, Barbour MG, Panetta FD, West CJ (2000) Naturalization and invasion of alien plants: concepts and definitions. Divers Distrib 6:93–107CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Richardson DM, Hellmann JJ, McLachlan JS, Sax DF, Schwartz MW, Gonzalez P, Brennan EJ, Camacho A, Root TL, Sala OE, Schneider SH, Ashe DM, Clark JR, Early R, Etterson JR, Fielder ED, Gill JL, Minteer BA, Polasky S, Safford HD, Thompson AR, Vellend M (2009) Multidimensional evaluation of managed relocation. PNAS 106:9721–9724CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Richkus WA (2013) Role of ecological risk assessment findings in agency decision-making regarding oyster restoration in Chesapeake Bay. Human Ecol Risk Assess 19:1253–1263CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Rotschild B, Ault J, Goulletquer P, Heral M (1994) Decline of the Chesapeake Bay oyster population: a century of habitat destruction and overfishing. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 111:29–39CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Ruesink JL, Feist BE, Harvey CJ, Hong JS, Trimble AC, Wisehart LM (2006) Changes in productivity associated with four introduced species: ecosystem transformation of a “pristine” estuary. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 311:203–215CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Ruiz GM, Carlton JT, Grosholz ED, Hines AH (1997) Global invasions of marine and estuarine habitats by non-indigenous species: mechanisms, extent, and consequences. Amer Zool 37:621–632Google Scholar
  54. Safford HD, Wiens JA, Hayward GD (2012) The growing importance of the past in managing ecosystems of the future. In: Wiens JA, Hayward GD, Safford HD, Giffen CM (eds) Historical environmental variation in conservation and natural resource management. Wiley-Blackwell, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  55. Schlaepfer MA, Sax DF, Olden JD (2010) The potential conservation value of non-native species. Cons Bio 23:428–437Google Scholar
  56. Schlarbaum SE, Hebard F, Spaine PC, Kamalay JC (1997) Three American tragedies: chestnut blight, butternut canker, and Dutch elm disease. In: Britton KO (ed) Exotic pests of eastern forests. USDA Forest Service, Southeastern Research Station, Asheville, NC. Tennessee Exotic Pest Council, 8–10 April 1997, pp 45–54Google Scholar
  57. Seastedt TR, Hobbs RJ, Suding KN (2008) Management of novel ecosystems: are novel approaches required? Front Ecol Environ 6:547–553CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Severns PM, Warren AD (2008) Selectively eliminating and conserving exotic plants to save an endangered butterfly from local extinction. Animal Cons 11:476–483CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Strayer DL (2010) Alien species in fresh waters: ecological effects, interactions with other stressors, and prospects for the future. Freshw Biol 55:152–174CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Stromberg JC, Chew MK, Nagler PL, Glenn EP (2009) Changing perceptions of change: the role of scientists in tamarix and river management. Restor Ecol 17:177–186CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Tomback DF, Arno SF, Keane RE (eds) (2001) The compelling case for management intervention. In: Whitebark pine communities: ecology and restoration. Island Press, Washington, DC, pp 3–25Google Scholar
  62. Underwood EC, Klinger R, Moore PE (2004) Predicting patterns of non-native plant invasions in Yosemite National Park, California, USA. Divers Distrib 10:447–459CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Vitousek PM, Mooney HA, Lubchenco J, Melillo JM (1997) Human domination of earth’s ecosystems. Science 277:494–499CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Vitule JRS, Freire CA, Vazquez DP, Nũnez MA, Simberloff D (2012) Revisiting the potential conservation value of nonnative species. Cons Biol 26:1153–1155CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. White RS, Walker JL (1997) Approximating nature’s variation: selecting and using reference information in restoration ecology. Restor Ecol 5:338–349CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Wiens JA, Hayward GD, Hugh D, Giffen C (2012) Historical environmental variation in conservation and natural resource management. Wiley, ChichesterCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Williams JW, Jackson ST (2007) Novel climates, no-analog communities, and ecological surprises. Front Ecol Env 5:475–482CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Williams JW, Jackson ST, Kutzbach JE (2007) Projected distributions of novel and disappearing climates by 2100 AD. PNAS 104:5738–5742CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Willis SG, Hill JK, Thomas CD, Roy DB, Fox R, Blakeley DS, Huntley B (2009) Assisted colonization in a changing climate: a test-study using two UK butterflies. Cons Lett 2:45–51CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Willis KJ, Bailey RM, Bhagwat SA, Birks HJB (2010) Biodiversity baselines, thresholds and resilience: testing predictions and assumptions using paleoecological data. Trends Ecol Evol 25:583–591CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Wimbush J, Frischer ME, Zarzynski JW, Nierzwicki-Baouer SA (2009) Eradication of colonizing populations of zebra mussels (Dressena polymorpha) by early detection and SCUBA removal: lake George, NY. Aquat Cons 19:703–713CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Zedler JB, Doherty JM, Miller NA (2012) Shifting restoration policy to address landscape change, novel ecosystems, and monitoring. Ecol Soc 17:36Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Amy M. Truitt
    • 1
  • Elise F. Granek
    • 1
    Email author
  • Matthew J. Duveneck
    • 2
  • Kaitlin A. Goldsmith
    • 1
  • Meredith P. Jordan
    • 1
  • Kimberly C. Yazzie
    • 1
  1. 1.Environmental Science and ManagementPortland State UniversityPortlandUSA
  2. 2.Harvard ForestHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA

Personalised recommendations