The natural ecological value of wilderness
In Chapters 7 through 10 of this book, we examined the social and economic benefits or values from Wilderness. In this chapter, we attempt to examine the natural ecological values of Wilderness. We define ecological value generally as the level of benefits that the space. water, minerals, biota, and all other factors that make up natural ecosystems provide to support native life forms. Ecological values can accrue to both humans and nonhumans alike. To humans, these benefits typically are bestowed externally as cleaner air and water. To nonhuman species. these ecological benefits are usually much more direct and on-site. Ecosystems contribute their greatest ecological value when they are in their most natural state. In their most natural state, they are at their peak of natural health and provide their greatest level of native life support. Native life support is the ecological value of Wilderness. Cole (2000) has argued that ecological value is directly and positively correlated with degree of naturalness. We will argue that such measurements of naturalness as we can devise or discover are our best shot at demonstrating whether Wilderness has greater ecological value than non-Wilderness lands.