An Introduction to Reconciliation Ecology

Kimberly Franklin

What is Reconciliation Ecology?

Humans now occupy approximately 83% of earth's land surface (Sanderson et al. 2002). By occupy I don't mean that humans can actually be found living on every square meter of that 83%, but rather that humans have changed the land surface in some way that will affect the flora and fauna of the area. Most likely that number has already grown substantially since it was first estimated in 2002. This means that there is an ever dwindling amount of land left over for the millions of other species that inhabit our planet. Recognizing that this small amount of land left over was not nearly enough to sustain the majority of the species on our planet, Dr. Michael Rosenzweig developed the idea of reconciliation ecology. In his own words, "reconciliation ecology is the science of inventing, establishing and maintaining new habitats to conserve species diversity in places where people live, work and play."

How will we establish and maintain new habitats in our cities and towns? It will require a serious effort from both scientists and the general public. Scientists must determine the habitat requirements for species that might potentially be able to live with humans. After these requirements are determined it will be up to local governments and the general public make sure that these requirements are met.

It is certain that some species will never be able to live within human-occupied areas. For instance, many large mammal species that require large amounts of area to search for food will never be able to live within cities. The survival of these species depends on the maintenance and growth of the existing system of nature reserves. But many species may be able to thrive within cities if their habitat requirements are taken into consideration. For example, the habitat requirements of many arthropod species may not be difficult to achieve. A certain butterfly species might only require a population of a certain host plant species on which it's larvae can feed. The key to making these type of efforts work will often be cooperation among several neighbors or even entire neighborhoods  because often one yard will not be large enough to maintain a population of any single species.

movie iconView An Interview with Ecologist Mike Rosenzweig: Exploring Reconciliation Ecology


Information on the Internet 

Mike Rosenzweig's Home Pages:

Art Shapiro's Butterfly Site
This website describes over 34 years of data collected by Dr. Arthur Shapiro, professor of Evolution and Ecology at the University of California, Davis, in his continuing effort to regularly monitor butterfly population trends on a transect across central California. Ranging from the Sacramento River delta, through the Sacramento Valley and Sierra Nevada mountains, to the high desert of the western Great Basin, fixed routes at ten sites have been surveyed at approximately two-week intervals since as early as 1972. The sites represent the great biological, geological, and climatological diversity of central California.

Art Shapiro's Butterfly Site Education Modules
The Lepidopteran Detective, Lepidopteran Statistics I (basics), Lepidopteran Statistics II (advanced)

The Careful Foot, A site dedicated to reconciliation ecology 


Rosenzweig, M. 2003. Win-win Ecology: How Earth's Species Can Survive in the Midst of Human Enterprise. Oxford University Press, NY.

Sanderson, E., M. Jaiteh, M. Levy, K. Redford, A. Wannebo, & G. Woolmer. 2002. The human footprint and the last of the wild. Bioscience. 52(10): 891-904.

Learning Information

About This Page

This page was developed as part of the project "New Strategies for Life Sciences Outreach in Arizona: Developing a Digital Library of Audio and Video Features in the Context of the Tree of Life Web Project" funded by the “Anyplace Access for Arizonans” Initiative under the University of Arizona Technology and Research Initiative Fund.

Kimberly Franklin
University of Arizona

Correspondence regarding this page should be directed to Kimberly Franklin at

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