Sustaining human and non-human animal populations: From competition to coexistence : a model

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Nuttall, Daniel B.
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University of Guelph

Anthropogenic factors are responsible for global decreases in biodiversity. Mitigating such decreases is central to the concept of sustainability. The concept of sustainability represents a "return to nature" approach. This ideological approach recognizes that an awareness of and adherence to ecological principles is required to achieve sustainability. Taken as a group these ecological principles are referred to as "natural theory". A particular subset of natural theory, called competition theory, describes how animal species which are competing for limited resources may coexist. Is it possible that the "solutions" derived by nature are in fact models for resolving competition between human animal (HA) and non-human animal (NHA) species? The thesis uses conceptualization methods and insight theory to develop a Sustainable Resource Partitioning (SRP) Model which describes how HA and NHA species can move from competition to co-existence. The utility of the model lies in its ability to situate humans as a part of nature and as a consequence shift the goal of sustainable development. This new goal takes exception to the anthropocentric, mono-specific and "dominion perspective" definition of sustainable development introduced by the WCED (1987). The model makes significant contributions in the area common to both competition theory and sustainability and notes the overlap in approach and terminology between these areas. The outcomes of the model include a new emphasis on asymmetrically exploitative competitive relationships and contested essential-renewable and essential-continuing resources. Consideration of the degree of substitutability of resources is recognized as critical and bound by taxonomy Given the role of intraspecific HA competition in extinction of NHA species additional emphasis is placed on understanding dominant community dynamics. Finally the roles of dominant and subordinate competitors, and, respectively, their effects and responses in intraspecific competition, is provided. The model was applied in rural Mozambique where basic exploratory field research was undertaken to develop an understanding of HA and NHA resource use in a competition setting. The competing species were 'Ploceus olivaceiceps ', the Olive-headed Weaver, and 'Homo sapiens', a local human population. The model examines each contested resource and demonstrates, through analysis of the resource utilization function (RUF), a means of sustainable partitioning. The model is generalizable to the extent that it may be used in any HA-NHA setting. Finally, the model results in new knowledge in the form of a clear, explanatory, practical and predictive set of propositions which provides for the coexistence of human and non-human animal species and thus makes a direct and valuable contribution to sustainability. Such a contribution has enormous potential and directly addresses the pressing need identified by Chap in (1996) that "the concept of sustainability [be] applied to natural ecosystems".

animal populations, human, non-human, coesxistence, competition