Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

  • Comment
  • Published:

Restore the lost ecological functions of people

Recent calls for the reintroduction of functionally important animal species are motivated by a desire to restore ecological function, but overlook the ecological roles performed by humans. Here, we consider humans in ecological context, exploring our roles in the maintenance and restoration of ecosystem function.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Buy this article

Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Fig. 1
Fig. 2: Ecological functions provided by people of the Western Desert, Australia.


  1. Bliege Bird, R., Bird, D. W., Codding, B. F., Parker, C. H. & Jones, J. H. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 105, 14796–14801 (2008).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  2. Dunne, J. A. et al. Sci. Rep. 6, 21179 (2016).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  3. Norton, B. G. Ethics Environ. 5, 23–45 (2000).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Auffret, A. G. Appl. Veg. Sci. 14, 291–303 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Auffret, A. G. & Cousins, S. A. O. PLoS ONE 8, e62763 (2013).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  6. Kay, C. E. Hum. Nat. 5, 359–398 (1994).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. Bird, M. I. et al. J. Quat. Sci. 28, 439–452 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Austin, K. Rural Sociol. 75, 270–299 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Zimbres, B., Peres, C. A. & Machado, R. B. Biol. Conserv. 206, 283–292 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Alagona, P. S., Sandlos, J. & Wiersma, Y. F. Environ. Philos. 9, 49–70 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Brockington, D. Fortress Conservation: The Preservation of the Mkomazi Game Reserve, Tanzania (Indiana Univ. Press, Bloomington, 2002).

  12. Russell-Smith, J. et al. Front. Ecol. Environ. 11, e55–e63 (2013).

    Google Scholar 

  13. Taylor, P. Pintupi cat hunters to take skills across Australia. The Australian (26 October 2015).

  14. Nepstad, D. et al. Conserv. Biol. 20, 65–73 (2006).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  15. Juffe-Bignoli, D. et al. Protected Planet Report 2014 (UNEP-WCMC, Cambridge, 2014).

  16. Cronon, W. Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature (WW Norton & Company, New York, 1996).

  17. Bliege Bird, R. et al. Biol. Conserv. 219, 110–118 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Bliege Bird, R., Tayor, N., Codding, B. F. & Bird, D. W. Proc. R. Soc. B 280, 20132297 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Bond, W. J. & Keeley, J. E. Trends Ecol. Evol. 20, 387–394 (2005).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Gott, B. Archaeol. Ocean. 17, 59–67 (1982).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Anderson, M. K. J. Ethnobiol. 17, 149–169 (1997).

    Google Scholar 

  22. Clinchy, M. et al. Behav. Ecol. 27, 1826–1832 (2016).

    Google Scholar 

  23. Smith, J. A. et al. Proc. R. Soc. B 284, 20170433 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Zbyryt, A. et al. Behav. Ecol. 29, 19–30 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Suraci, J. P., Clinchy, M., Dill, L. M., Roberts, D. & Zanette, L. Y. Nat. Commun. 7, 10698 (2016).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  26. Rangan, H. et al. PLoS ONE 10, e0119758 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Kondo, T. et al. Proc. R. Soc. B 279, 2652–2661 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Rebecca Bliege Bird.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Bliege Bird, R., Nimmo, D. Restore the lost ecological functions of people. Nat Ecol Evol 2, 1050–1052 (2018).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing