Friday, January 31, 2014

Invasive Species - A Danger to Biodiversity

The second-largest contributor to the extinction of species after habitat destruction are invasive species. Invasive species are any organisms which have been artificially introduced to an area by humans which thrive and out-compete native species. Invasive species disrupt established ecosystems and decrease biodiversity. 

A prime example of an invasive alien specie is the Sacred Ibis, a waterbird native to sub-Saharan Africa and Madagascar. In the 1970s, European countries such as Spain, Italy, and France began to raise ibises in free-flying groups in zoological gardens. As a result, many ibises escaped and established themselves in wetland environments throughout Europe. They feed upon invertebrates and fish and prey upon the eggs and young of other bird species. In France, this predation has wiped out entire colonies of Terns and Mallards and has devastated populations of newts.

One of the impacts of low biodiversity is that environments become more susceptible to the spread of dangerous organism. Perhaps the most notable example of this is the Irish Potato Famine. The potato was non-native to Ireland, but when it was introduced there it was so calorie dense per square foot of land that it quickly became the only crop famers planted. Then in 1845 an airborne fungus was carried in ships from North America to England. The resulting blight infected and rotted potato plants and because of the low diversity of crops, this caused a mass starvation within Ireland. Millions died and millions more emigrated out of Ireland as a result. 

Once firmly established, invasive species become very difficult to eradicate. Instead, efforts must be focused on decreasing the spread of these species. Organizations such as the National Wildlife Foundation work to stop the spread of invasive species by monitoring for new infestations, working quickly to eliminate them, and enacting legislation to restrict the importation of species where they could be potentially invasive.

Further Reading: 
IUCN - Invasive Species
Birding World - Sacred Ibis: A New Invasive Species in Europe
The Guardian - Invasive Species: Can they be Stopped?

The Importance Of Biodiversity

Our planet contains various types of species that live together under similar conditions. The biodiversity of these species is represented by their different sizes, habitats, and ways of living. Several species on our planet are in danger and risk becoming extinct. Several scientists estimate that one fourth of all of the world plants and animal species may be extinct in 50 years. The extinction of plant and animal species at that high rate will not only affect their presence, but will negatively influence other species, and that is due to the reliance of every species on one another. Protecting all types of species is an important task that each person should take into consideration. It is of utmost importance to try to decrease the danger posed by extinction of species so that our planet will be able to maintain a rich biodiversity in which each species balances another. You can find some of the ways to help save biodiversity in this link below.
Written by: Badoor Alibrahim

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Urban Biodiversity

One of our biggest problems today is finding balance between the ever-growing human population and our consumption of resources.  Although there are plenty of things we can do to heal the environment, the main focus should be on slowing the damage we are currently causing.  Urban parks provide one way for us to create a balance in our busy lives, while combating the loss of biodiversity.

Biodiversity is one of the three basic principles of sustainability, the other two being solar energy and chemical cycling.  Enhancement of biodiversity in urban areas helps to promote both the quality of life and education of the surrounding people, thus promoting sensitivity and awareness of other environmental concerns.

Although many people agree on the psychological and ecological benefits of urban parks, there is no definitive way to manage such areas.  With the proper management, urban parks can be part of an interconnected green system, helping cities with flood control, storm water management costs, combating child obesity, improving both education and recreation, and improving areas with a lower socioeconomic status.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Climate Change, Biodiversity, and Our Oceans

   The earth’s climate is ever-changing.  However, in recent and upcoming years this climate change is happening at a more rapid rate.  This leaves species with a more difficult time adapting to changes in the climate.  In turn, biodiversity is threatened by this rapid climate change.  When ecosystems are not able to adapt accordingly, losses happen and set off a chain reaction to all species involved.  Humans should be concerned with this threat to biodiversity due to how much we rely on the balance of an ecosystem for our survival.  A rapid change in climate could reduce the amount of fresh water, plants we derive medicines from could become extinct, and our food chain may drastically change.  Climate change plays a large role in maintaining biodiversity and choices we make that harm the climate are contributing to the swift change in our climate and ecosystems.  

   One area where climate change is affecting the biodiversity of an ecosystem is our oceans.  Many think of climate change affecting land and land animals however, oceans and sea life are experiencing a decline in biodiversity.  Rapid melting and higher carbon dioxide in the oceans is resulting in negative changes for all sea life.  In a report by it is noted:  “today’s change is occurring rapidly, giving many marine organisms too little time to adapt. Some marine creatures are growing thinner shells or skeletons, for example. Some of these creatures play a crucial role in the food chain, and in ecosystem biodiversity.”  We may not be able to stop climate change.  However, we can play a role in slowing the change, in turn, sustaining biodiversity in all ecosystems.

Posted By: Mary Hoefler
Image Provided By: 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Economics of Biodiversity – Can we afford NOT to change our ways?

"Humanity has fabricated the illusion that somehow we can get by without biodiversity or that it is somehow peripheral to our contemporary world: the truth is we need it more than ever on a planet of 6 billion [people], heading to over 9 billion by 2050. Business as usual is no longer an option if we are to avoid irreversible damage to the life-support systems of our planet."
                -Achim Steiner, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

There are numerous ethical, health and environmental reasons to be concerned about the ever-diminishing biodiversity on our planet. In addition to these compelling reasons, the economies of the world depend on the availability of diverse natural resources. In the US, at least $3 trillion of our economy is dependent on Earth's species. Below are some of the areas that are most affected by biodiversity and therefore have the potential for the greatest financial consequences:

1. Food
Biodiversity in our food source is critical to producing crops that have the genetic variety to adapt to our changing environment, are resistant to disease, and produce better yields. Numerous insect and animal species can provide biological pest control that is preferable to pesticides. Pollinators are threatened by climate change and are crucial to crop health and reproduction. The economic value of insect pollinators is estimated at $189 billion.

2. Medication
 “There is no question that the templates for most drugs are in the natural world.” (Eloy Rodriguez, Biochemist at Cornell University). Over 50% of our medications come from plant sources, most of them found in rain forests. If we were to lose these diverse ecosystems, prices for medications would be higher, creating a world where the poor are at an even greater health disadvantage with even less access to life-saving resources.

3. Industry
Agriculture, forestry and fisheries all depend on healthy ecosystems to thrive. According to the United Nations, the annual global economic losses due to deforestation and land degradation alone were between $2 trillion and $4.5 trillion in 2008.

4. Tourism and Recreation
Tourism is often a contributor to the environmental changes that cause a loss of biodiversity. At the same time, tourism in most countries stands to experience huge losses without the natural, native beauty upon which the industry is built.

A more direct financial loss can be seen in the changing consumer attitudes towards companies that neglect responsible environmental practices. According to “The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB),” 60% of consumers in the U.S. and Europe are aware of biodiversity loss and over 80% say they would stop buying products from companies that disregarded ethical considerations.

What is nature worth?

Monday, January 20, 2014

Negative Impacts on Biodiversity

Many human actions have negative effects on biodiversity. Actions such as logging, polluting, as well as fishing and hunting in excess can have drastically negative impacts on biodiversity. But how do these actions directly effect biodiversity? Polluting can not only cause physical harm directly but can alter the climate. Hunting and fishing can create holes in an ecosystem through over-exploitation creating yet another imbalance. Logging destroys habitat forcing animals to find new areas to live. The displaced animals can create an imbalance in their new habitat, even becoming an invasive species.

An excellent example of how human interference can have a negative impact on biodiversity is the cane toad. Introduced to Australia, the cane toad found itself with no natural predators. Its natural toxin wreaks havoc on all would-be predators. The death of animals that try to feed on the toads is perhaps the most significant impact on biodiversity as it creates an environment with less predators and an increase in prey. Overtime the impact made by cane toads will change Australia’s natural biodiversity.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Why is Biodiversity important to the planet?

According to the Smithsonian Institution, biodiversity has three components. "Genetic biodiversity" refers to inherited variations within an animal or plant population. For example, the Irish Potato Famine was the result of a fungus blight that targeted spuds. Deficient diversity can be natural to an area or induced by humans, but in either case there is a risk to a population's continued existence.

The second aspect, "species richness," refers to the number of species located in a particular ecosystem. A healthy environment tends to support a wide-ranging assortment of flora and fauna. In addition, global location affects diversity: More variation is found within the tropics, especially in the western Pacific region. A change in one species, however, can affect others.

The final aspect, "ecosystem diversity," considers the types of habitats within an environment. For example, does it have grasslands, freshwater, saltwater or forests? Low diversity within an ecosystem, however, does not necessarily indicate a crisis.

Genetic diversity, species richness, ecosystem diversity: all are important for a well-functioning environment. A loss of biodiversity can produce long-term, far-reaching effects.

Resource: Susan Sherwood

What is Biodiversity?

Biodiversity is an ever-changing aspect in the world that we inhabit. There are an estimated 1.7 million species that have been identified and named, with almost 13,000 new species being added to the list each year. However, there has been a large rate of extinction in the world that is far greater then the extinction that happened to the Dinosaurs. What we as humans need to realize is that we are not the only type of species that are inhabiting this great planet we call Earth. The more that we expand and grow as a group, the more harm we do to world of biodiversity. Just as the video illustrates, biodiversity helps keep a balance in this world, and if it were to collapse, we would soon find ourselves in a rather sticky situation (so to speak). Let's just hope that we, as a species, realize the impact that we have on the world and do something about it before we end up just as extinct as the Dinosaurs.

Written By: Darius Brodeanu
Video Credit:

How Can YOU Help Preserve Our Planet's Biodiversity?

The inherent decline of Biodiversity serves as a major global threat to the future of our planet and its ecosystems. Luckily, we as humans are still in a position to ease the pressure on this decline by making a few small choices in our everyday lives. For example, every year nearly 13 million hectares of natural forest are lost. By opting to purchase your wood from sustainable and legal sources, and informing yourself on the source of your wood furniture or flooring, you can help outlaw illegal logging operations. Many sustainable wood products now even feature a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) label, shown to the left, to help you identify which wood is “good” wood. Another way to help lessen the decline of Biodiversity is to pick up a seafood guide and begin to make sustainable choices in your fish purchases. Avoiding endangered species or fish from areas that are overfished can help maintain our oceans, which harvest nearly 80% of the world’s biodiversity.

Image credit of Hickman Lumber Co.