OSG

Decreasing Biodiversity and Why You Should Care

In Uncategorized on September 25, 2012 at 7:15 pm

Biodiversity is, according to Merriam-Webster’s online edition, “biological diversity in an environment as indicated by numbers of different species of plants and animals” (1).

Biodiversity is also essential to create the intricate patterns of life that exist on Earth. Not only is biodiversity important in the variety of beautiful animals and plants available for appreciation, but in the precision with which it fills all niches of ecosystems is a glorious dance. A niche is the particular position an animal fills within an food chain or ecosystem. A keystone species fills an essential niche within an ecosystem that no other organism could fill.When all elements are working as they should, the food needs of all animals are met and population sizes are kept under control by predators.

Global climate change, however, is destroying this carefully crafted system. Changes in water temperature, precipitation, or the environmental temperature of an ecosystem may create conditions that a species is unable to live in. As new species go extinct, they leave holes in their ecosystem. If the lost animal is a keystone species then the entire ecosystem may collapse.

The economic and social effects of such a collapse would be devastating. If a particular type of fish were to go extinct, both fishermen and consumers would be negatively impacted. The fisherman would have lost his livelihood while the consumer would have lost a meal they enjoy.

If this devastation were to happen on a wider scale, all of the fish that could live in a certain area might be killed and the economy of an entire city may collapse. In order to save  the majesty of nature and the ensure the enjoyment of that majesty for years to come, we must adopt responsible environmental practices and work to save the species that have already been endangered.

Sources

1) http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/biodiversity

2) http://www.globalissues.org/issue/169/biodiversity

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  1. There are examples of the effects of limited biodiversity and the effects in history.

    Monoculture (the growing of a single crop) can be seen as the cause of the Irish Famine in the 1840s/50s. Potatoes had become the staple crop for the poor. When the potato blight struck, the staple food supply was lost. Families were evicted from properties because they didn’t have crops and people starved. refer http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Famine_%28Ireland%29

    If we were to look at food crops worldwide, there is a large reliance on just a few food crops. If something such as the blight were to hit these crops on a globally, the Irish Famine would be repeated on a global scale. As an example, think of the effect if rice crops failed.

    Now, considering the non-cultured biodiversity, the flow on effect of the loss of a species shouldn’t be underestimated. Considering your fish example, here is one example of a food chain…

    Phytoplankton and zooplankton are at the bottom of the food chain.
    Krill are small crustaceans mostly feeding on the phytoplankton.
    Krill in turn are eaten by some fish species, penguins, seals and baleen whales as examples.

    With a major decline in krill, those animals above in the food chain may suffer huge number losses. Consider krill are only found in cold arctic and southern seas. With warming waters the range would decline suggesting a population decline. Humans do harvest krill but there is an international convention limiting the quantity at this time.

    I see you show polar bears in your photo. We have heard the effects of warming waters on pack ice and the flow on effect with polar bears. Here’s a link to an article from 2005… http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/07/06/AR2005070601899.html

    Habitat loss, over harvesting by humans, climate change, contamination of habitat… whatever the cause, a healthy, biologically diverse world provides us with a greater chance of surviving the future. If our planning looks to the limited future of what we can take now, we will face a long term future dealing with what is no longer available.

    As you have written, “In order to save the majesty of nature and the ensure the enjoyment of that majesty for years to come, we must adopt responsible environmental practices and work to save the species that have already been endangered.”

    @RossMannell
    Teacher (retired), N.S.W., Australia

    • Thank you so much for the fantastic examples you provided of this issue! The current crop monoculture threatens massive destruction as a result of the trend away from biodiversity.
      Your example of the krill is very accurate, however, you did not mention the impact a smaller population of krill would have on the phytoplankton. Without the krill to devour the phytoplankton, the phytoplankton would over-produce themselves and exceed the carrying capacity of their habitat. This would lead to a decline in the populations of phytoplankton as well. Thank you again for your insightful comment!

  2. I agree with you completely about the seriousness of decreasing biodiversity and how it affects all living organisms. Humans receive food, medication, and fuel from plants and animals, and if biodiversity is not preserved we will lose many of these resources. Climate change is also a major concern facing the world because it affects the environment of specialized flora in fauna like the Arctic Sea ice community. Researches predict that due to global warming by 2040 the Arctic Sea ice coverage will have reduced so much that it will become ice free in the summer. This for example would affect the polar bears as well as their main food source the seals. http://www.learner.org/courses/envsci/unit/text.php?unit=9&secNum=2
    Human activities have also created a threat to nature’s diversity. The landscape of the world has changed more in the last 50 years than ever before. Human activities have caused the extinction of both animals and plants and is currently threatening thousands more of amphibians, mammals, birds, reptiles, etc. With the climate changes and other threats we are set to lose more than 1/4 of all life on earth in this century. Awareness of biodiversity is extremely important and if advocated now, earth in the future will be a healthier place to live in.

    • Thanks so much for commenting! The destruction of biodiversity through climate change is a great way to tie together your related concerns. The devastating effects of human actions on the natural world can no longer be ignored. Thanks for taking the time to post here!

  3. Hi there,
    I really appreciated reading your post because biodiversity is something I care deeply about, as well. Whenever I think about biodiversity I am reminded of Rachel Carson, a woman who wrote the book Silent Spring and who pretty much kick-started the environmental movement. I admire her very much, and if you have not taken a look at her books (she wrote a few) then I suggest that you should–you might enjoy them.
    It’s amazing what nature can do, I agree. The incredibly intricate web of life that exists on this earth should serve as a reminder to all humans of the power that nature holds.
    I know that global climate change is a huge issue, and that it is negatively impacting pretty much all life on earth, but do you think that part of this climate change is simply a natural cycle of global warming and cooling? We know about ice ages, and that the planet gradually warms up and changes temperatures, so couldn’t (theoretically) global warming be in part because of these natural circumstances?

    Thank you for bringing up this very important topic.
    -Clare

    • Clare,
      Thanks for responding to the post! I’m so glad you like it! I have not had a chance to read anything by Rachel Carson, but I have heard about Silent Spring. It is on my personal reading list!
      As for the natural cycles of heating and cooling, I do think that these are contributing to the climate change, however think it is impossible that human activity is not impacting them. This change is more drastic that previous heating cycles. You might find this link interesting: http://ossfoundation.us/projects/environment/global-warming/natural-cycle.

  4. Hi Claire! I agree with the points you made of how biodiversity is rapidly failing and endangering many species of plants and animals as well as affecting every aspect of life on earth. With all of the environmental and climate changes causing ice caps to melt and warming to earth, we are all in danger and need to put this to a stop. At the same time, we have been part of the issue because humans have been taking oil from the ground to use for gasoline, heating, and other luxury uses which has created pollution which has been affecting all forms of life on earth. How do you think we can all take part in cutting back on certain luxuries or how we can save the life forms from going extinct?
    Great Post!
    ~Carolyn

    • Carolyn,

      Thats a great point! Human beings are a major part of the climate change that we are experiencing, and because we are such a large part of the problem I think that we should be just as involved in the solution. One of the major ways I try to cut back on my impact on the planet is through decreasing the amount of gas I use driving. By coasting more frequently rather than always using the accelerator, I not only save myself money, but save the planet just a little bit. Carpooling is also a great option if you live near a classmate. Another great way to save electricity is by turning off unneeded light. There are lots of appliances that you can use in your home to save energy, water, and a whole bunch of other things. The final way I would suggest to decrease energy usage and lessen our energy impact on the globe is changing the temperatures of air conditioning or the heat used in your home. Air temperature control is a new convenience for Americans and decreasing our use of it by increasing use of blankets and heavier clothing saves money and energy. Hopefully these suggestions are helpful! If the world comes together to employ these and other methods, hopefully we can solve this pressing issue.

      Claire

  5. Hello Claire,

    My name is Elizabeth Mims and I am a student at the University of South Alabama, which is in Mobile, Alabama. I was assigned to comment on your post for my EDM 310 class. I must say, I am very pleased that I was assigned to comment on this post. The climate change is a topic I am very passionate about. I am constantly trying to spread the awareness for global warming. There is so much that people can do to try and save the planet. They could recycle, use reusable bags, carpool, watch their energy usage, and I am just naming a few. The problem is that people don’t feel like it is a big issue or that they can make a difference.
    I liked how you posted the picture of the polar bears since they are a species on the brink of extinction due to increasingly warmer waters and melting ice caps. If we don’t do something now we are going to regret it later.

    Overall, I really enjoyed your post and look forward to reading more in the future!

    Elizabeth Mims

    • Hello Elizabeth,

      Thanks for your comment!
      You are certainly right that people do not show the care they should for the environment, even thought it is incredibly easy. Small steps in the right direction will eventually help reverse the trends of environmental degradation. I think the only way to impart upon people how important these issues are is to keep bringing them up as much as possible.

      Thanks!
      Claire

  6. Hi Clair,
    My name is Meghan Brewer and I am a student in Edm 310 at the University of South Alabama. I was assigned to read your post about biodiversity and I thoroughly enjoyed it! The picture of the polar bears broke my heart. So many people do not even realize how close to extinction some animals actually are. One species holds a specific niche and plays a vital role. The idea that the loss of one key species can completely alter the ecosystem and the lives of so many animals and people is crazy. I loved the point you made about the fisherman. As consumers we don’t think about the fact that there are people in the world who make their livings and support their families by doing something like fishing. they depend on these animals and their extinction would affect them much more drastically than it would affect us, the passive consumer.
    Thank you for your post Claire! It was eye opening. I look forward to reading more.
    Meghan Brewer

    • Meghan,

      Thanks so much for your response! I really appreciate your careful reading of the post. I’m glad that you liked the story of the fisherman! I think that in order to force legislative change, we must show the economic effects of these issues.
      Thanks!
      Claire

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