David Wilcove is a professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University, as well as the director of the Program in Environmental Studies and a professor in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public Affairs. He has worked for the Wilderness Society, The Nature Conservancy and Environmental Defense, and has served on the board of directors of the RARE Center for Tropical Conservation, the Society for Conservation Biology, the American Bird Conservatory, and on the editorial boards of Conservation Biology and Ecological Applications. Wilcove is the author of two books: The Condor's Shadow: The Loss and Recovery of Wildlife in America (1999) and No Way Home: The Decline of the World's Great Animal Migrations (2007). He developed his fascination with birds while growing up in Buffalo, New York, and one of his favorite ecosystems is southeastern Arizona near the Chiricahua mountains. Below, Wilcove answers questions related to his work to conserve the native scrub ecosystem in Florida, and to save the northern spotted owl and old-growth forest habitat in the Pacific Northwest.
Justine Hausheer: I have read that you are currently assessing efforts in Florida to help preserve the native scrub ecosystem. Where in the state have you been working?
David Wilcove: Our base of operations was the Archbold Biological Station, near Lake Placid. Our work focused on a specific ecosystem, 100 miles long by 10 miles wide, running from south of Orlando to just north of Lake Okeechobee.
JH: What flora and fauna are you researching specifically?
DW: We are looking at the ecosystem as a whole. This strip has the highest density of endangered in species anywhere in United States outside of Hawaii. We have been determining how successful conservation measures thus far have been.
JH: How much danger is this ecosystem in, and what factors are endangering it?
DW: About 85 percent of the habitat type that makes up this strip is already lost to urban sprawl and citrus production, so only 15 percent remains.
JH: What is the state of current conservation efforts?
DW: Given the small ecosystem size, and given how much of the habitat has already been destroyed, there is really no way to protect enough habitat to be able to walk away satisfied that the species there will prosper. There is just not enough habitat left to ensure healthy populations of those species.
JH: What agencies are working to conserve the scrub?
DW: The project was funded...