Novel assemblages: challenges for ecology and the conservation/restoration orthodoxy

Richard J Hobbs (1)

1 School of Plant Biology, University of Western Australia, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia

Much has been written about changes in species distributions in response to climate change and other environmental changes and, in addition, the human role in engineering change through transport of species outside their normal ranges. This deliberate transport is either given negative connotations in relation to the transport of invasive species, or positive connotations in relation to assisted migration of species at risk. However,  less  consideration  has  been  given  to  the  resulting  ecosystems  and  assemblages.  From  an ecological standpoint, how will these novel assemblages work? How will combinations of pre-existing and novel species interact, and how will this affect overall ecosystem functioning (and hence ecosystem services)?  From a conservation/restoration standpoint, what is the value of these novel assemblages and what should be done about them? This latter question has resulted in heated debates that cut to the quick of established ideas in conservation and restoration. These debates are still being worked through and some feel that the very future of conservation and restoration rests on the resolution of the core questions being asked. In this talk, I will explore the key issues being debated and ask whether an effective way forward can be developed.