Essays on Science and SocietyECOLOGY AND EVOLUTION

Losing Australia's native gardeners

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Science  20 Nov 2020:
Vol. 370, Issue 6519, pp. 925
DOI: 10.1126/science.abf1706


When many of us think of outback Australia, we imagine desolate sands stretching out to the horizon, with either droughts or flooding rains. But what if this state of desolation is a result of the European colonization, poor land management, and native species extinctions driven by introduced plants and animals? What if the infertile soils that exist in the country today were once productive, with plant and animal communities maintaining a sensitive balance that reduced the impact of droughts and capitalized on flooding rains? What if our ideas of functioning ecosystems are the end-product of shifting baselines (1)?

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