Species Conservation in Managed Habitats
Species Conservation in Managed Habitats
Nature conservation is a good thing. Who would dare to raise objections against it? However, it is the moral-ideological and exaggerated approach, closely associated with the conservation movement since the second half of the last century that leads to the drawing of wrong conclusions. Nature and wildlife conservation were originally oriented on specific objectives, namely the protection of nature and species. In the 1970s and 1980s, however, a new concept was propagated, which embedded nature conservation and species protection into the vision of a clean environment and into the health of the population. This development expanded an area (that previously had reflected the interests of only some specific individuals) into a generally binding moral postulate. People had to be made aware that the protection of species presupposed an intact nature and that rubbish and pollution in the environment really endangered species. Since it was a moral duty to avoid environmental pollution, everyone had to automatically combine environmental cleanness with nature conservation and the protection of species.
However, the protection of some species has nothing at all to do with nature conservation and even less with a clean environment. Hygiene, cleanliness and orderliness are things that man needs; but they are not what many species necessarily need, at least not in the form in which human beings would like to see them. Exactly the opposite is often true. In recent centuries, hygiene and orderliness in our homes have put many formerly common animals into the endangered species categories. For example, the house rat ( Rattus rattus ), not to be confused with the brown rat ( Rattus norvegicus ) has become extremely rare. It had to be classified in Germany's Red List of Threatened Animals as 'critically endangered' (Category 1). The populations of the common bed bug have declined sharply in Central Europe in comparison to those of previous centuries. The same goes for fleas and lice. All these species used to be very common in Central Europe and they still are today in other countries around the world. They became rare in Central Europe thanks to hygiene, cleanliness and measures that serve the health of human beings. Most of us have of course no love for these creatures in our homes, but it is exactly this perception that reflects the anthropocentric standpoint. It is what human beings want, not what the animals want.
Just as in earlier times, civilisation saw homes being thoroughly cleaned of debris and dirt, and today's modern agriculture is 'cleaning' the landscape to an ever-increasing extent. We have recently begun to transfer a process, which formerly served domestic culture and health, to the countryside. During the last half century in Central Europe, farmland and pastures have been optimised for maximum yield and cleaned for machine processing. Agricultural land was cleared of stones and weeds and sandy or muddy surfaces and uneven ground were eliminated. The last square yards of unused gaps, corners and edge areas were incorporated into the production areas, and waste and crop residues were no longer left lying. Modern farmland is absolutely clean, homogeneous and as flat as a table.
However, animals have also been cleared from the fields, to the same extent as the fields have been cleared of 'refuse'. The modern field is almost species-free. Being clean and hygienic, it makes a 'proper' impression of course, but it is actually a desert that is hostile for species. Just as the cleaning of human domiciles removed the possibilities of survival for rats, bedbugs and fleas, the cleaning of the fields has left no room for the species. The brow hare, grey partridge, skylark and corn bunting can no longer find areas for food and nesting. If you take a walk over fields today, you will not hear the singing of the skylark at most locations; and it is for similar reasons that no more