Perspectives in Ecology and Conservation Perspectives in Ecology and Conservation
Perspectives in Ecology and Conservation 2018;16:1-11 DOI: 10.1016/j.pecon.2017.08.006
Essays and Perspectives
Humans as niche constructors: Revisiting the concept of chronic anthropogenic disturbances in ecology
Ulysses Paulino Albuquerquea,, , Paulo Henrique Santos Gonçalvesa, Washington Soares Ferreira Júniorb, Leonardo Silva Chavesa, Regina Célia da Silva Oliveiraa, Temóteo Luiz Lima da Silvaa, Gilney Charll dos Santosa, Elcida de Lima Araújoc
a Laboratório de Ecologia e Evolução de Sistemas Socioecológicos (LEA), Departamento de Botânica, Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, Av. Prof. Moraes Rego, 1235, Cidade Universitária, 50670-901 Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil
b Universidade de Pernambuco, Campus Petrolina, Rodovia BR 203, Km 2, s/n – Vila Eduardo, Petrolina, PE 56328-903, Brazil
c Laboratório de Ecologia de Ecossistemas Nordestinos, Departamento de Biologia, Universidade Federal Rural de Pernambuco, Av. Dom Manoel de Medeiros, s/n, Dois Irmãos, 52171-900 Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil
Received 28 March 2017, Accepted 23 August 2017
Abstract

The ecology has witnessed a strong conceptual shift regarding the transition from human-free to human-dominated ecosystems. Nevertheless, human beings are still treated as exogenous factors in many ecological studies. Human activity can reasonably be assumed to influence many processes and patterns studied in ecology at different spatial and temporal scales. Thus, trying to predict the future of ecosystems while ignoring the influence of human activities is neither realistic nor useful. We argue that a successful integration effort in traditional ecology must result from a theoretical and/or conceptual change. A logical and intuitive theoretical leap should be one that considers human actions in light of an integrative scenario. In the first part of this article, we discuss the need for conceptual, theoretical, and methodological changes in studies focusing on the idea of chronic anthropogenic disturbances. In the second part, we introduce the Niche Construction Theory (NCT) as an integrative scenario accommodating these theoretical and conceptual changes in studies that investigate human actions in the environment. To exemplify our argument, we present a case study resulting from our research and focusing on the cascading effects of human activities and their multilevel and multiscale influences in the landscape.

Keywords
Ecosystem engineering, Human-dominated ecosystems, Human ecology, Social–ecological systems