Saturday “Biodiversity” Smörgåsbord

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2010 was is the International Year of Biodiversity. The IYB is meant to help raise awareness of the importance of biodiversity, which goes beyond “I want my children to enjoy it” or “Any species could hold the cure for cancer and thus should be preserved”: biodiversity allows ecosystems to recover more easily from disaster, contributes to climate stability, … . Who wants to read more about it, can get more information here and here.
News on the disappearance of the tiger, of many fish species, … reaches us everyday, and draws a grim picture of the way our planet is headed. However, there áre positive stories of conservation and reintroduction, that show that not only are we capable of wiping entire species from the Earth’s surface: if we put our minds to it, we can take responsibility, reverse the consequences of our actions and book success, giving back other species the space they deserve.

 

Image via Wired Science

Fifteen years ago, America’s last eastern panther population had shrunk to several dozen individuals, riddled with genetic defects and too inbred to survive much longer. In a conservation attempt, 8 females from Texas were introduced to the population, with success: the panther’s population has tripled, and the occurrence of genetic defects is now reduced. In order for the success to continue, additional translocations will be necessary, and the population (and the habitat … ) needs to expand further, but the future is sure is looking a lot brighter for the Florida Panther. (via Wired Science)

Image via De Morgen

The Wild Coffee Forests of Kafa (does “Arabica” ring a bell?) in Ethiopia have been recognized as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The former kingdom of Kafa, 475km southwest of Addis Abeba, holds more than half of the rainforest left in Ethiopia, and harbors a wealth of animal and plant species. As in many countries, the forest was cut on a large scale for decades, to make room for farm land, and for the production of charcoal and building materials. Fortunately however, this has changed, and with the help of Farm Africa, the local farmers have learned to grow coffee, fruit, … indigenous to the region which are less vulnerable than the crop plants they grew before. In addition, they can harvest honey, herbs, … in specified regions in the reserve. The new approach has been a success for both the farmers and the wildlife preservation, and resulted in the UNESCO recognition – a sure sign they are on the right track. (via De Morgen)

Image via US Forest Service

Crawford Path, one of the oldest and most popular recreation hiking trails in the US, used to be home to more than 95 percent of the world’s Robbins’ cinquefoil (Potentilla robbinsiana), concentrated on just one acre of land. However, as popularity with the backpackers increased, the number of Robbins’ cinquefoil decreased accordingly, until the flower teetered on the brink of extinction. A recovery plan was issued, and in a conservation effort that took over 20 years, the plant was gradually reintroduced to the area, until it could be taken off of the list of endangered species some years back – the ultimate measure of success. Follow-up studies now show that the established population has remained stable and healthy, and the beautiful yellow flowers can now be found blooming again on the mountain slopes. (via US Forest Service)

The story of the Iberian Lynx is not a success-story (yet), but it may very well become one, and a very remarkable one at that. One major threat of biodiversity is the introduction of new species, which can easily destabilize a whole ecosystem: viruses previously unknown can do unseen damage to indigenous species who never had the chance to build resistance, new predators can virtually kill an entire species – the list of human-introduced invasive species is impressive. However, climate change may cause this type of invasion part of the strategy to save entire species. While this sounds contradictory, it may prove to be useless to preserve a species in its “natural” habitat, as that habitat changes and becomes unlivable for the “saved” animal. Other regions, on the other hand, may develop to be a more suitable habitat than the “historical” one. However, the widespread occurrence of one particular species (i.e. Homo sapiens) may strongly inhibit the animals to reach the new Promised Land. So why not help them a hand? It is called assisted migration and seems highly interesting, albeit controversial. But who knows, it may be the preservation technique of the future (and is certainly easier to do than genetically manipulate to species to adapt to its changed environment). (via Oregon Expat)

 
There is much more that could be done – that should be done, even, and it is highly unlikely we will be able to stop the rapid extinction of species any time soon, but the above stories show that it is possible, and that, in and of itself, opens possibilities. Who wants more positive stories may find some on the site of the Nature Conservancy, or just keeps an eye on his/her local journal: positive stories are everywhere, you just have to want to find them.

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