Our climate is changing worldwide. Ecosystems are deteriorating, and species are going extinct. A lot of the causes for the current state of our environment are man made. Biodiversity is an essential element in protecting our ecosystems and human well-being, but this too is suffering because of human impact. Now more than ever, we must unite, embrace change, and make conscious efforts in species conservation. Otherwise, our entire planet will shoulder the negative consequences.
What is Biodiversity?
Biodiversity is the variability of life forms that inhabit our planet and the ecosystems that they are a part of. This encompasses the diversity within species, between different species, and in ecosystems. Biodiversity is important in human managed environments, as well as natural ecosystems.
Conserving biodiversity is as crucial to human well-being as it is to the plants and animals. When biodiversity thrives, we thrive. Our basic needs are dependent on the success of diverse ecosystems, needs like:
- Clean Water
- Energy and Fuel
- Raw Materials
Without biodiversity, human communities will suffer. Each and every species has a part to play in our natural world. Every day, we rely on the diversity of our ecosystems for basic needs, spiritual fulfillment, recreation, and enjoyment.
Why Conservation Matters
Without species conservation efforts, all living organisms on Earth will suffer. Regions and communities that do not have adequate conservation efforts and resources are the ones to suffer the most. Among the most compelling reasons why conservation is so vital are as follows:
- Helps populations everywhere survive and grow
- Improves human lives and contributes significantly to human health and overall well-being
- Nature provides a never-ending source of inspiration
- By protecting species, we save the planet we call home
Humans are behind the current rate of species extinction. Wildlife population of vertebrate species like mammals, birds, and fish has declined by 52% over the past 40 years. Given the enormous amount of damaged we have caused our ecosystems, it then follows that we have the biggest responsibility to remedy the problem. We must act now to protect the diverse ecosystems and ensure that the future generations continue to benefit from nature’s vast resources.
Trends in Species Conservation
Current rates of change and loss in our planet’s ecosystems are at an all-time high and show no signs of slowing down. During the last century, the impact of humans has led to an alarming loss of biodiversity with extinction rates greater than those of prehistoric times. Researchers and experts have observed a steady loss of biological diversity not just in a few selected areas but across the world. Virtually all of Earth’s ecosystems have been altered drastically by human action. Driving factors may vary in importance across regions and ecosystems, however, all contribute to the deteriorating condition of our world.
Before you lose all hope, some promising trends emerging on how to combat this loss and protect our environment:
- Sustaining species and ecosystems as opposed to managing individual resource components
- Emphasis on biological accountability
- Emphasis on transparency and public engagement
- Use of predictive models and measurable biological outcomes
Challenges in Species Conservation
While the problems differ in each region, there are over-arching threats that affect our entire planet. Change and loss in biodiversity are caused by a range of natural and human-induced factors. Some of the biggest threats to biodiversity today include:
- Habitat change, destruction, and fragmentation
- Invasive alien species
- Illegal wildlife crime
- Climate change
Change in habitats is one of the leading causes of population decline in species. Development and natural disturbances, like tornados and wildfires, can cause fragmentation of habitats. When a habitable land breaks into small segments, the result is that some lifeforms fail to survive.
The introduction of alien species to new ecosystems is the second leading cause of biodiversity loss. When non-native species spread in an ecosystem, it can use up valuable resources and drive existing species to extinction.
Overexploitation remains a serious challenge in conservation. People fish, farm, and hunt other species to the point of near extinction.
In the same vein as overexploitation is wildlife crime. Plant and animal species are hunted and sold. Exotic plants are transported illegally across borders. Live animals are sold for their fur, tusks, and meat. Some are even sold as household pets.
Over the past few decades, pollution has emerged as one of the leading causes of changing ecosystems. Fertilizers, pesticides, and other pollutants alter the delicate balance of ecosystems and render them uninhabitable.
Climate change offers one of the biggest challenges in species conservation. The continuing change in climate poses a dangerous threat to species and ecosystems all over the world. Some of the problems that arise include:
- Frequent extreme weather events
- Changing rainfall and other precipitation patterns
- More frequent and more intense wildfires
- Changes in access to water sources
- Rising sea levels