Friday, February 28, 2014

Human Population Growth

            How does the human population growth affect planet Earth’s biodiversity? The ever-growing population raises many questions pertaining to what is affected. For example, what is the impact of our species on the other species that share this planet? What is our impact on the food supply, and is it limited? Is our population responsible at all for massive land degradation and water pollution? What about our energy consumption?

            These are all important questions that scientists, philosophers, and thinkers in general try to answer. The human population growth can be a sensitive topic, and it will undoubtedly be difficult for policy to be created to handle these issues. This article does not answer these questions; instead it provides a few key facts to inform readers on this subject.

            Underdeveloped and developing countries experience a much higher rate of population growth than developed countries like the United States. In fact, most developed countries are experiencing a steady population growth, with some experiencing slight population decline. One of the factors that scientists study are the average number of children women give birth to. In the United States, the average is two children per woman. However, in some African and Middle Eastern countries, the average rages between five to eight children per woman. India’s population is expected to surpass China’s by the year 2050, given their current growth rate. Why is this happening?

            Factors that affect human population growth in developing countries are the high infant mortality rate experienced, the reliance on children as a type of “social security,” poor education, and the low economic status of women. Several non-profit organizations around the world are trying to address steadying the population growth, Population Connection being one of the most well-known. Organizations like Population Connection try to increase family planning education, encourage and provide information on sustainable diets such as vegetarianism, and try to politically push population growth policies.

            Nobel laureate Dr. Henry Kendall once said, “If we don't halt population growth with justice and compassion, it will be done for us by nature, brutally and without pity- and will leave a ravaged world.” While this issue remains a debate, it is undeniable that the Earth is only so big, there are a limited amount of natural resources, and our species’ population is growing at a faster rate than what we eat.

Helpful online resources:

The Illegal Wildlife Trade
          One of the most dangerous threats to global biodiversity is the illegal wildlife trade. The illegal wildlife trade is an international multi-million dollar industry in which protected species are poached and traded for money. This industry greatly threats a healthy biodiversity in that it disrupts nature’s balance of species diversity, places animals in unnatural habitats, and introduces invasive species to unideal areas. For example, the Burmese python, illegally introduced into Florida is now considered an invasive pest in the southern wetlands.

            Certain cultures in Southeast Asia believe rhino horns possess healing powers, and will purchase the illegally poached goods for a price that rivals that of gold’s. Populations of countries such as Mexico, the United States, and some southern European nations trade millions of dollars for tiger skins, shark teeth, and skins for cosmetic or decorative purposes. There are laws that nations have set up to try to combat this industry, but they are weak and not effectively enforced. At the same time, most of the laws in place only succeed in arresting the poachers themselves, typically impoverished members of illegal hunting hotspots, not the consumers of the trade themselves, usually very wealthy individuals.

“Hotspots,” or areas in which the majority of the illegal hunting occurs, are China’s international borders, South Africa, Southeast Asia, and Mexico. One of the most poached animals in these areas are rhinos. Several species of rhinos are poached every year; there was a 5000% increase in rhino poaching in South Africa from 2007 to 2012. Another targeted wild animal is the elephant, for its ivory tusks. In 2011 alone, officials across the globe reported seizing ivory accumulating 2,500 elephants. One of the most well-known endangered species are the world’s wild tigers. Unfortunately, these animals are at the top of the most-desired list in the illegal wildlife trade because of their fur, bones, and teeth. With only about 3,200 wild tigers left, this industry poses a serious threat to the survival of this species. Other animals significantly targeted by the industry are several types of turtles, leopards, and orangutans.
        The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is at the forefront of protecting these animals from this trade. This United States based organization seeks to promote public education on the issue, urges legislatures to create and enforce wildlife trade regulations, and provides opportunities to work for the cause, travelling the globe.

Challenges for Fire-Prone Forests in the Pacific Northwest

When it comes to biodiversity something that easily comes to mind is logging of old-growth and the clearing of native forests, which is historically one of the most well known drivers of biodiversity loss in the Pacific Northwest. Policies have been enacted however, to limit logging and protect habitats of threatened species with this “management and conversation efforts have shifted to focus on other issues and threats including effects of altering fire regimes and occurrence of large high intensity fires in reserves intended for species sensitive to particular fire regimes” (source).

The paper is highly dense and I recommend taking a look at it if you're interested (link at the bottom of this post). However, the authors provide us with a list of options when it comes to dealing with forest fires which are:
  1. Managing wildfires (including allowing them to burn to produce ecological benefits while protecting lives and structures.
  2. Full suppression of wildfires.
  3. A combination of the two above; since 2009 in the USA, some fires are simultaneously managed for suppression and ecological objectives.
  4. Prescribed fire.
  5. Other fuel manipulations.

Like I said, check it out!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Technology and Oceans

Our planet is divided into two elements: land and water. The majority of life on earth lives in the ocean. Due to this, people have sought to understand and learn about biodiversity in the sea. Scientists have come up with devices that can monitor the species in the ocean, which gives them the ability to observe the different types of species under the water. These technologies give them the ability to monitor different aspects about their life such as:
1. The movement of the animals from one area to another.
2. The reasons why species die.
Knowing this information about aquatic species is an important aspect of our lives since people rely on the ocean for:
1. Energy.
2. Weather.
3. Food.
4. Recreation.
Additionally, all of this data that has been gathered is available online, so people can take a look at it and see how climate change has affected the environment. People should invest in technology that helps understand the effects which we as human are setting into motion so then we can start to build a stronger and more sustainable relation between ourselves and the sea.

Written by: Badoor Alibrahim
Video from: census of marine life. 

Taking Action


     People nowadays live in large cities where all of their needs are provided for them easily. A person can go to the grocery store and get all of his or her daily needs such as fruits, vegetables, meat, and milk without acknowledging where these products came from. Living in cities has essentially built a wall between humans and nature. Interestingly however, while people have chosen specific plants and animals to live around them in their cities, they have isolated so many other creatures, which causes less interaction between humans and nature. Therefore, the connection that humans have with nature no longer exists or is as strong as it used to be. People need to interact with the nature in order to understand its importance. Parents have to teach their kids from a young age the significance of nature and how interacting with nature and understanding its significance can influence their lives. In order to do this, children need to be exposed to the biodiversity that they live in. Having a stronger value to the natural resources that we use every day would makes us appreciate what we have.

    Through mediums like lectures for adults and programs for children, we need to teach the general public the importance of the ecosystem that they live in. By expending all the amount of energy that nature has put together to create the basic elements that we use in our life, such as water. In addition, we need to try to do away with the negative effects that we as humans influence on our ecosystem. Finally, it is essential that we teach people ways in which they can protect biodiversity so that we can improve our environment and protect its future development, since each specie in our plant relies on one another.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Excessive Logging and Biodiversity

Two months ago, our team conducted a survey on the Portland State campus. According to several students, one of the most dangerous threats to the ecosystem and healthy global biodiversity is excessive logging. Logging is the practice of cutting down, removing, and preparing timber into goods such as paper and wood products. While there have been benefits reported to correlate with logging practices such as getting rid of non-native species, and making room for new plant growth, the dangers of logging have longer-lasting effects on our ecosystem.

Nearly 70% of all animal life call forests their home. Forest habitats provide cover and shade, areas for animals to create nests, and food. Excessive logging, especially clear-cutting (the process of completely cutting down all the trees in a large area), destroys these natural habitats which may lead to local extinction of species. In addition to destroying natural habitats, excessive logging is a cause of soil erosion. Especially in the case which trees located along stream banks are removed, the soil under the trees becomes eroded and may wear down completely. Soil acts as a recycling center for nutrients, however eroded soil may not perform this function effectively. Not only does the tree-removal aspect of logging itself pose threats to healthy forest soil, but the logging trucks used to transport the harvested trees and the loggers themselves do as well. Logging trucks travel on soil and unpaved roads, wearing down the ground below them. These trucks scare animals away from their natural habitat, and cause several animal deaths per year by collision. Loggers themselves also pose a threat to forest ecosystems. There is a real and present issue of loggers illegally hunting while on the job. Not using permits, these loggers are usually hunting in areas meant to be protected from hunting.

While still debated, another possible danger excessive logging presents is its indirect effect on global warming. Plant life creates oxygen and absorbs greenhouse gases. However, when this plant life is destroyed by logging, this process is minimized, resulting in more greenhouse gases remaining in the atmosphere, which in turn contributes to global warming.

Logging practices remain a hotly debated topic, and there is an abundance of information resources online, in libraries, and on television. Being mostly covered by forest land, Oregon has a close relationship with the logging industry, and one mustn’t look too far to find themselves in the center of this discussion.

Source used:

Monday, February 24, 2014

Biodiversity and Bees

Biodiversity and Bees 

Bees are little, yet have large roles in terms of biodiversity. As reported by CNN (May 5, 2000), “One third of all our food-fruits and vegetables would not exist without pollinators visiting flowers. But honeybees, the primary species that fertilizes food-producing plants, have suffered dramatic declines in recent years, mostly from afflictions introduced by humans.”

A food producing plant can range from fruit trees to berries and a wide variety of things. In order for a plant to effectively produce food, the plant would need a pollinator that can move pollen from the male anthers of a flower to the female stigma of a flower to successfully accomplish fertilization.  "Bees are vital to biodiversity, there are thousands of plants for which bees are essential to pollination. "  There has been a great scale of decline in bees that result from various diseases, environmental pollution, environmental degradation and farming practices. Since there is a large scale of things that can impact the lives of bees it is hard to pinpoint what has the largest impact on the decline of bees. The first step is acknowledging the issue and understanding how crucial bees and pollinators are for agriculture.  Bee farm practices can grow and effectively create a way to increase the amount of bees present in a farm.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Is there a way to quantify biodiversity?

According to the United Nations-sponsored Convention on Biological Diversity, biodiversity means “the variability among living organisms from all sources … and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems”.

While counting species is one of the most commonly used measures of biodiversity, scientists have moved toward a more holistic approach, looking at diversity in the larger context of the ecosystem.

No species lives in isolation, and the health of a particular plant or insect depends on the network of vegetation, animals and microscopic organisms in the surrounding area. Ecosystems work to efficiently process nutrients, energy and waste in a continuing cycle. Every element of that cycle must be in place in order for it to work, so measuring the amount of one particular species does not give a clear view of the health of the overall environment.

Species richness, which examines the number of each species in a given area, is one aspect of a region’s biodiversity. But other elements include measuring the diversity within a certain species, as well as the number of other populations of that species in other geographic regions. A species may be well represented on a certain California coastline, for example, but found nowhere else on Earth. Should that coastline be damaged by environmental changes, the species would disappear.

To make things even more complicated, scientists don’t always agree about what constitutes a species. New ones are discovered and named all the time, while debates rage about whether similar-looking insects or birds found in different areas constitute the same species or not. The very malleability of what it means to be a species highlights the difference between the unruly natural world and the rational, logical scientific process. As the environmentalist Edward O. Wilson writes, “The imperfections of the concept, and thereby of our classification system, reflect the idiosyncratic essence of biological diversity. They give even more reason to cherish each species as a world unto itself, worthy of lifetimes of study.”

Source: Elizabeth Blackwell

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Biodiversity As A Brand

What Human Need is Biodiversity Addressing?

At first sight a rich variety of personal needs are addressed by diversity: The desire to learn, Self- preservation, Family protection, Aesthetic enjoyment, Personal health, Positive self-image, Physical nourishment and protection. But which of these is most prominent? Which are increasing? As Biodiversity communicators we must persuade real people that biodiversity addresses their basic needs. Only by doing so will we command consistent attention and maintain mind share adequate with its importance.

In terms of branding, it is significant how few of these human needs are directly addressed or implied in most biodiversity communication. We have to divert away from the abstract and make the issue local. At the heart of every brand is a product, or something that is offered to the market. What is it that Biodiversity does that people can buy and buy into? Biodiversity comprises: Genetic diversity, Organism diversity and Ecosystem diversity.

The Biodiversity product is a multi-layered thing: Biodiversity not only produces ‘things’: water, food, medicines, and clothing, but also services: cleaning the water, purifying the air, fertilizing crops, replenishing nutrients and regulating the weather. We gain knowledge as our insight into genetics, geology, pharmacology, meteorology, biology and many other facets of human existence grow abundantly. The science community has to join forces with the social science community to further the goal of educating the masses through branding and culture awareness.

Helpful sites:

Posted by: David Ferguson

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Invasive Species and Threats to Biodiversity

Invasive species are species introduced to an environment in which they are not native.  They take over native species’ resources and can cause irreparable damage.  Invasive species are the second largest threat to biodiversity.  In an article by NatureServe, it is noted “rare species with limited ranges and restricted habitat requirements are often particularly vulnerable to the influence of these alien invaders.”  It has been said that safeguarding our biodiversity is the best way to maintain our ecosystem.  To do this we must be aware of invasive species and how they can impact an ecosystem. 
- Habitat Modification:  change local environment conditions
. Competition with Native Species for Resources:  compete for same resources as native species
. Predation of Native Species:  depletion of native species
. Herbivory on Native Plants:  predation on plants
 -Bring in Pathogens:  harmful to animals, plants, and even humans
. Hybridize with Natives: leads to loss of genetic diversity

Thoughtless behavior about the environment can lead to unintentional introductions of invasive species into a new environment.  These “accidents” are in fact the majority of invasions.  We all need to be aware of how to combat invasive species. 

Key Information Resources:

National Invasive Species Council
NBII Invasive Species Node
Global Invasive Species Programme

Posted by: Mary Hoefler