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Managing Nature

By Nimue Brown

Should we attempt to ‘manage’ nature or is it best to let the natural world take care of itself, and to avoid human intervention as far as possible? It’s an interesting question, and one I think it is worth poking around in a bit.

Firstly, for this to make sense, we have to assume that nature is separate from humanity and that anything humans do must be at odds with nature, rather than part of it. Moorland and meadows in the UK exist as a consequence of humans farming animals over thousands of years. We’ve been doing this long enough that many landscapes in Europe are shaped by our presence, and many species have evolved a little bit to utilise what we do. There are woodland flowers that just never grow if no one coppices the woods to let in the light.

Secondly, nature is slow to adapt, and very happy to adapt by letting things die out. We have unbalanced many natural systems, often by taking out top level predators. I recall a tale of a place that, on returning its wolves found the mountainsides became glorious with flowers because they were no longer being cropped. Often we don’t know the knock on effects of our unbalancing are, and in re-balancing, we learn valuable lessons.

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