On Frank Golley’s International and Interdisciplinary Insights for a Twenty-First Century Earth Stewardship Based on Environmental Ethics

  • Alan P. CovichEmail author
Part of the Ecology and Ethics book series (ECET, volume 2)


Current interest in developing a worldview to enhance Earth stewardship recognizes the importance of a multicultural perspective based on environmental ethics and a global understanding of the value of biodiversity and ecosystem processes. Frank Golley was a champion in developing and implementing ecosystem concepts based on “nature-centered thinking”. His environmental ethics-based principles emphasized “connectedness” among people and their environment that included the value of cultural differences in responding to natural and human-driven disturbances. Golley concluded that long-term, large-scale international studies are essential in evaluating the vulnerability of species and their habitats as well as ecosystem processes. Some ecological disturbances are easy to observe (e.g., floods, fires, hurricanes) while others (e.g., gradual loss of species, slow spread of invasive species) take longer to study but most require long-term research before their full impacts are known. Moreover, cumulative effects and indirect effects of complex interactions require multi-disciplinary research to sort out the causes and effects of changing ecosystem structure and function, often at a global scale. Research in tropical ecosystems demonstrated the need for organizing site-based research for extensive comparative studies. Golley’s international leadership accelerated progress in enhancing the understanding of how these long-term changes in tropical rainforests and agroecosystems can affect local populations and global connections with other ecosystems. Today ongoing studies of both wet and dry tropical forests are providing important data related to ecosystem services needed by local communities. Golley’s linking of ecosystem ecology, landscape ecology, and environmental ethics helped to define pragmatic sustainable “response systems” as a way to resolve complex tradeoffs among conflicting perspectives and his approach can continue to help develop ideas for Earth stewardship.


Ecosystem services Environmental ethics Long-term ecosystem research Stewardship 


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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Odum School of Ecology, Institute of EcologyUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA

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