Biodiversity and Conservation

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August 2016

Trophic Cascades

Newest Additional Reading

  1. Can Bats be Protected from Wind Turbines?, Christian Science Monitor

Biodiversity and Conservation

Science and Conservation Together

...effective conservation of biodiversity is essential for human survival and the maintenance of ecosystem processes

Science p.298, vol. 329 10 Sept. 2010


Biodiversity is not just the sum total of living forms within a habitat or ecosystem. It is the complex web of inter-linkages of these life forms.

Some authors refer to the world ecosystem and the biodiversity within the world. Some refer to the genetic biodiversity within a community.

Biodiversity is the symphony of life

Biodiversity: The Dance of Life

Land conservation is the platform, the stage on which the biodiversity theater group dances. On this stage of land conservation the various members of the biological community play their ecological roles. Without a stage, without land conservation there will be a crash in these biological resources. There will be no dancing. But without biological resources, the stage itself will collapse. Stage and biodiversity are closely interrelated. Consequently land conservation alone will not preserve the ecological services and the biodiversity that we all enjoy. In fact the simpler levels of easement may very well contribute to an erosion of our biological assets.

Biodiversity Dynamics

Humans have interfered and modified the world ecosystem and all the constituent ecosystems within it. Biodiversity is on the wane. And since all our economies are based on what nature can provide, we have to constantly take action to manage our ecosystems to preserve and enhance their biodiversity. Please see the left navigation page: Managing Biodiversity.

On Biodiversity and the Web of Life

“So important are insects and other land-dwelling arthropods that if all were to disappear, humanity probably could not last more than a few months. Most of the amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals would crash to extinction about the same time. Next would go the bulk of the flowering plants and with them the physical structure of most forests and other terrestrial habitats of the world. The land surface would literally rot. As dead vegetation piled up and dried out, closing the channels of the nutrient cycles, other complex forms of vegetation would die off, and with them all but a few remnants of the land vertebrates.” (Wilson 2010)

On Biodiversity Research in the Mountain District from Philip Marshall, Ph.D., Yale School of Forestry

“Significantly, I think biodiversity research is one of the areas of weakness, especially with regard to insects, which are of course close to the base of the food web. There are papers on charismatic species like mayflies for instance, and defoliators like spruce budworm, but there appears to be a real deficiency of baseline data on community composition beyond these few.” (in email to The Mountain Conservancy, December 2014)

Biodiversity fosters Ecosystem Health

“Disease incidence is often lower in more diverse communities of plants and animals....As biodiversity is lost from ecological systems, the species most likely to persist may tend to be those most likely to harbor and transmit pathogens at high rates.”


1) Is Biodiversity Good for Your Health?, Science Magazine


Trophic Cascades

Eliminating large carnivores leads to an overabundance of their prey species like Woodland caribou.

From Yale Environment 360:

“Recent studies have shown, for example that the loss of important predators — from wolves in boreal forests to sharks in seagrass meadows — can lead to growing populations of terrestrial and marine herbivores, whose widespread grazing reduces the ability of ecosystems to absorb carbon. Still, the impact of biodiversity loss on the climate system is underappreciated, and reversing that loss is rarely considered as an effective tool to help slow the buildup of atmospheric carbon dioxide…

Hence the appeal of what might be called “natural geoengineering.” Natural ecological processes already offer many reliable and safe ways to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. Currently, natural processes — such as photosynthesis by tropical trees and marine phytoplankton, and CO2 absorption by ocean waters — remove and store more than half of the carbon emissions generated by human activities. With thoughtful environmental stewardship there is the promise of doing more, and doing it in more environmentally friendly ways.

However, doing more requires a sea change in mindset. It entails conflating the climate issue with another environmental issue of global proportions — biodiversity conservation. Climate change is commonly viewed as causing collateral damage to biodiversity. Species, especially animals, are viewed as unwitting victims, passengers stuck on a ship that is headed on an ill-fated voyage. A changing mindset sees animal species as important drivers of the climate ship, so biodiversity management and conservation may be a key to fixing the climate change problem.

As always, the devil will be in the details, given that animal effects on carbon exchange may differ from ecosystem to ecosystem. But much headway can be made if species conservation moves beyond simply protecting species for their iconic or charismatic value and protecting them instead for the roles they play in ecosystems and the climate system. Doing this convincingly requires appreciating and knowing how these species fit into food chains, and how their loss can interfere with the ability of natural systems to sequester carbon.” For more information, see Trophic Cascades.


1) How ‘Natural Geoengineering’ Can Help Slow Global Warming, Yale Environment 360
2) Can Bats be Protected from Wind Turbines?, Christian Science Monitor