Conservation biology

Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Conservation biology is the study of the conservation of nature and of

ecosystems from excessive rates of extinction and the erosion of biotic interactions.[1][2][3] It is an interdisciplinary subject drawing on natural and social sciences, and the practice of natural resource management.[4][5][6][7]
: 478 

The

conservation ethic
is based on the findings of conservation biology.

Origins

Efforts are made to preserve the natural characteristics of Hopetoun Falls
, Australia, without affecting visitors' access.

The term conservation biology and its conception as a new field originated with the convening of "The First International Conference on Research in Conservation Biology" held at the

evolutionary genetics on the one hand and conservation policy and practice on the other.[9]

Conservation biology and the concept of biological diversity (biodiversity) emerged together, helping crystallize the modern era of conservation science and policy. The inherent multidisciplinary basis for conservation biology has led to new subdisciplines including conservation social science, conservation behavior and conservation physiology.[10] It stimulated further development of conservation genetics which Otto Frankel had originated first but is now often considered a subdiscipline as well.

Description

The rapid decline of established biological systems around the world means that conservation biology is often referred to as a "Discipline with a deadline".

demographics, effective population size, inbreeding depression, and minimum population viability) of rare or endangered species.[12][13] Conservation biology is concerned with phenomena that affect the maintenance, loss, and restoration of biodiversity and the science of sustaining evolutionary processes that engender genetic, population, species, and ecosystem diversity.[5][6][7][13] The concern stems from estimates suggesting that up to 50% of all species on the planet will disappear within the next 50 years,[14] which has contributed to poverty, starvation, and will reset the course of evolution on this planet.[15][16]

Conservation biologists research and educate on the trends and process of

morals, ethics, and scientific reason. Organizations and citizens are responding to the biodiversity crisis through conservation action plans that direct research, monitoring, and education programs that engage concerns at local through global scales.[4][5][6][7] There is increasing recognition that conservation is not just about what is achieved but how it is done.[17] A "conservation acrostic" has been created to emphasize that point where C = co-produced, O = open, N = nimble, S = solutions-oriented, E = empowering, R = relational, V = values-based, A = actionable, T = transdisciplinary, I = inclusive, O = optimistic, and N = nurturing [17]

History

Natural resource conservation

Conscious efforts to conserve and protect global biodiversity are a recent phenomenon.

Tragedy of the Commons".[20][21]

From this principle, conservation biologists can trace communal resource based ethics throughout cultures as a solution to communal resource conflict.

Tlingit peoples and the Haida of the Pacific Northwest had resource boundaries, rules, and restrictions among clans with respect to the fishing of sockeye salmon. These rules were guided by clan elders who knew lifelong details of each river and stream they managed.[7][22] There are numerous examples in history where cultures have followed rules, rituals, and organized practice with respect to communal natural resource management.[23][24]

The Mauryan emperor Ashoka around 250 B.C. issued edicts restricting the slaughter of animals and certain kinds of birds, as well as opened veterinary clinics.

Conservation ethics are also found in early religious and philosophical writings. There are examples in the

St Cuthbert in response to his religious beliefs.[7]

Early naturalists

More conservation research is needed for understanding ecology and behaviour of the dhole
in central China.

Natural history was a major preoccupation in the 18th century, with grand expeditions and the opening of popular public displays in Europe and North America. By 1900 there were 150 natural history museums in Germany, 250 in Great Britain, 250 in the United States, and 300 in France.[29] Preservationist or conservationist sentiments are a development of the late 18th to early 20th centuries.

Before Charles Darwin set sail on HMS Beagle, most people in the world, including Darwin, believed in special creation and that all species were unchanged.[30] George-Louis Leclerc was one of the first naturalist that questioned this belief. He proposed in his 44 volume natural history book that species evolve due to environmental influences.[30] Erasmus Darwin was also a naturalist who also suggested that species evolved. Erasmus Darwin noted that some species have vestigial structures which are anatomical structures that have no apparent function in the species currently but would have been useful for the species' ancestors.[30] The thinking of these early 18th century naturalists helped to change the mindset and thinking of the early 19th century naturalists.

By the early 19th century

conservation organizations, their writings, by modern standards, showed insensitivity towards conservation as they would kill hundreds of specimens for their collections.[29]

Conservation movement

The modern roots of conservation biology can be found in the late 18th-century

Lord Monboddo,[32] described the importance of "preserving nature"; much of this early emphasis had its origins in Christian theology
.

Scientific conservation principles were first practically applied to the forests of

civic duty to maintain the environment for future generations, and that scientific, empirically based methods should be applied to ensure this duty was carried out. Sir James Ranald Martin was prominent in promoting this ideology, publishing many medico-topographical reports that demonstrated the scale of damage wrought through large-scale deforestation and desiccation, and lobbying extensively for the institutionalization of forest conservation activities in British India through the establishment of Forest Departments.[33]

The

other colonies, as well the United States,[35][36][37] where Yellowstone National Park was opened in 1872 as the world's first national park.[38]

The term conservation came into widespread use in the late 19th century and referred to the management, mainly for economic reasons, of such natural resources as

Game laws from 1872, which protected animals during their breeding season so as to prevent the stock from being brought close to extinction.[42]

One of the first conservation societies was the

Wildlife Trusts
.

In the

national forests and preserves were established by Theodore Roosevelt from 1901 to 1909.[46][47] The 1916 National Parks Act, included a 'use without impairment' clause, sought by John Muir, which eventually resulted in the removal of a proposal to build a dam in Dinosaur National Monument in 1959.[48]

In the 20th century, Canadian civil servants, including Charles Gordon Hewitt[49] and James Harkin spearheaded the movement toward wildlife conservation.[50]

In the 21st century professional conservation officiers begun to collaborate with indigenous communities for protecting wildlife in Canada.[51]

Global conservation efforts

In the mid-20th century, efforts arose to target individual species for conservation, notably efforts in

Democratic Republic of Congo.[56]

By the 1970s, led primarily by work in the United States under the

In 1980, a significant development was the emergence of the

grassroots movement, its early development was driven by academic research into urban wildlife. Initially perceived as radical, the movement's view of conservation being inextricably linked with other human activity has now become mainstream in conservation thought. Considerable research effort is now directed at urban conservation biology. The Society for Conservation Biology originated in 1985.[7]
: 2 

By 1992, most of the countries of the world had become committed to the principles of conservation of biological diversity with the

.

Since 2000, the concept of

landscape scale conservation
has risen to prominence, with less emphasis being given to single-species or even single-habitat focused actions. Instead an ecosystem approach is advocated by most mainstream conservationists, although concerns have been expressed by those working to protect some high-profile species.

Ecology has clarified the workings of the

industry, and the ensuing pollution, have demonstrated how easily ecological relationships can be disrupted.[62]

The last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant: "What good is it?" If the land mechanism as a whole is good, then every part is good, whether we understand it or not. If the biota, in the course of aeons, has built something we like but do not understand, then who but a fool would discard seemingly useless parts? To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.

Concepts and foundations

Measuring extinction rates

Extinction intensity.svgCambrianOrdovicianSilurianDevonianCarboniferousPermianTriassicJurassicCretaceousPaleogeneNeogene
Marine extinction intensity during the Phanerozoic
%
Millions of years ago
Extinction intensity.svgCambrianOrdovicianSilurianDevonianCarboniferousPermianTriassicJurassicCretaceousPaleogeneNeogene
The blue graph shows the apparent percentage (not the absolute number) of marine animal genera becoming extinct during any given time interval. It does not represent all marine species, just those that are readily fossilized. The labels of the traditional "Big Five" extinction events and the more recently recognised Capitanian mass extinction event are clickable links; see Extinction event for more details. (source and image info)

Extinction rates are measured in a variety of ways. Conservation biologists measure and apply

loss of biodiversity as a function of the rate of habitat loss and site occupancy[64] to obtain such estimates.[65] The Theory of Island Biogeography[66] is possibly the most significant contribution toward the scientific understanding of both the process and how to measure the rate of species extinction. The current background extinction rate is estimated to be one species every few years.[67] Actual extinction rates are estimated to be orders of magnitudes higher.[68]

The measure of ongoing species loss is made more complex by the fact that most of the Earth's species have not been described or evaluated. Estimates vary greatly on how many species actually exist (estimated range: 3,600,000-111,700,000)

threatened.[70][71] Better knowledge is being constructed by The Plant List
for actual numbers of species.

Systematic conservation planning

Systematic conservation planning is an effective way to seek and identify efficient and effective types of reserve design to capture or sustain the highest priority biodiversity values and to work with communities in support of local ecosystems. Margules and Pressey identify six interlinked stages in the systematic planning approach:[72]

  1. Compile data on the biodiversity of the planning region
  2. Identify conservation goals for the planning region
  3. Review existing conservation areas
  4. Select additional conservation areas
  5. Implement conservation actions
  6. Maintain the required values of conservation areas

Conservation biologists regularly prepare detailed conservation plans for

Geographic Information Systems to assist in the decision making process. The SLOSS debate
is often considered in planning.

Conservation physiology: a mechanistic approach to conservation

Conservation physiology was defined by Steven J. Cooke and colleagues as: "An integrative scientific discipline applying physiological concepts, tools, and knowledge to characterizing biological diversity and its ecological implications; understanding and predicting how organisms, populations, and ecosystems respond to environmental change and stressors; and solving conservation problems across the broad range of taxa (i.e. including microbes, plants, and animals). Physiology is considered in the broadest possible terms to include functional and mechanistic responses at all scales, and conservation includes the development and refinement of strategies to rebuild populations, restore ecosystems, inform conservation policy, generate decision-support tools, and manage natural resources."[10] Conservation physiology is particularly relevant to practitioners in that it has the potential to generate cause-and-effect relationships and reveal the factors that contribute to population declines.

Conservation biology as a profession

The

are immense fields unto themselves, but these disciplines are of prime importance to the practice and profession of conservation biology.

Conservationists introduce

values in their conservation management plans.[5]
This sort of advocacy is similar to the medical profession advocating for healthy lifestyle options, both are beneficial to human well-being yet remain scientific in their approach.

There is a movement in conservation biology suggesting a new form of leadership is needed to mobilize conservation biology into a more effective discipline that is able to communicate the full scope of the problem to society at large.[74] The movement proposes an adaptive leadership approach that parallels an adaptive management approach. The concept is based on a new philosophy or leadership theory steering away from historical notions of power, authority, and dominance. Adaptive conservation leadership is reflective and more equitable as it applies to any member of society who can mobilize others toward meaningful change using communication techniques that are inspiring, purposeful, and collegial. Adaptive conservation leadership and mentoring programs are being implemented by conservation biologists through organizations such as the Aldo Leopold Leadership Program.[75]

Approaches

Conservation may be classified as either

ex-situ conservation, which occurs outside the natural habitat.[76] In-situ conservation involves protecting or restoring the habitat. Ex-situ conservation, on the other hand, involves protection outside of an organism's natural habitat, such as on reservations or in gene banks, in circumstances where viable populations may not be present in the natural habitat.[76]

Also, non-interference may be used, which is termed a preservationist method. Preservationists advocate for giving areas of nature and species a protected existence that halts interference from the humans.[5] In this regard, conservationists differ from preservationists in the social dimension, as conservation biology engages society and seeks equitable solutions for both society and ecosystems. Some preservationists emphasize the potential of biodiversity in a world without humans.

Ethics and values

Conservation biologists are

interdisciplinary researchers that practice ethics in the biological and social sciences. Chan states[77]
that conservationists must advocate for biodiversity and can do so in a scientifically ethical manner by not promoting simultaneous advocacy against other competing values.

A conservationist may be inspired by the resource conservation ethic,

anthropocentric usefulness or utilitarianism.[7]: 3, 12, 16–17  Aldo Leopold was a classical thinker and writer on such conservation ethics whose philosophy, ethics and writings are still valued and revisited by modern conservation biologists.[7]
: 16–17 

Conservation priorities

The

ecological processes, such as migration, and a holistic examination of biodiversity at levels beyond the species, including genetic, population and ecosystem diversity.[80] Extensive, systematic, and rapid rates of biodiversity loss threatens the sustained well-being of humanity by limiting supply of ecosystem services that are otherwise regenerated by the complex and evolving holistic network of genetic and ecosystem diversity. While the conservation status of species is employed extensively in conservation management,[79] some scientists highlight that it is the common species that are the primary source of exploitation and habitat alteration by humanity. Moreover, common species are often undervalued despite their role as the primary source of ecosystem services.[81][82]

While most in the community of conservation science "stress the importance" of

Nature Conservancy, argue that it is more cost-effective, logical, and socially relevant to invest in biodiversity coldspots.[85] The costs of discovering, naming, and mapping out the distribution of every species, they argue, is an ill-advised conservation venture. They reason it is better to understand the significance of the ecological roles of species.[80]

Biodiversity hotspots and coldspots are a way of recognizing that the spatial concentration of genes, species, and ecosystems is not uniformly distributed on the Earth's surface. For example, "... 44% of all species of vascular plants and 35% of all species in four vertebrate groups are confined to 25 hotspots comprising only 1.4% of the land surface of the Earth."[86]

Those arguing in favor of setting priorities for coldspots point out that there are other measures to consider beyond biodiversity. They point out that emphasizing hotspots downplays the importance of the social and ecological connections to vast areas of the Earth's ecosystems where

nutrient cycling.[85]

ExtinctionExtinctionExtinct in the WildCritically EndangeredEndangered speciesVulnerable speciesNear ThreatenedThreatened speciesLeast ConcernLeast ConcernIUCN conservation statuses

Summary of 2006 IUCN Red List categories

Those in favor of the hotspot approach point out that species are irreplaceable components of the global ecosystem, they are concentrated in places that are most threatened, and should therefore receive maximal strategic protections.[94] The IUCN Red List categories, which appear on Wikipedia species articles, is an example of the hotspot conservation approach in action; species that are not rare or endemic are listed the least concern and their Wikipedia articles tend to be ranked low on the importance scale.[dubious ] This is a hotspot approach because the priority is set to target species level concerns over population level or biomass.[90][failed verification] Species richness and genetic biodiversity contributes to and engenders ecosystem stability, ecosystem processes, evolutionary adaptability, and biomass.[95] Both sides agree, however, that conserving biodiversity is necessary to reduce the extinction rate and identify an inherent value in nature; the debate hinges on how to prioritize limited conservation resources in the most cost-effective way.

Economic values and natural capital

Tadrart Acacus desert in western Libya, part of the Sahara

Conservation biologists have started to collaborate with leading global

WWF publishes its Living Planet Report and provides a global index of biodiversity by monitoring approximately 5,000 populations in 1,686 species of vertebrate (mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians) and report on the trends in much the same way that the stock market is tracked.[98]

This method of measuring the global economic benefit of nature has been endorsed by the

public goods without a market and therefore no price or value.[96] When the stock market registers a financial crisis, traders on Wall Street are not in the business of trading stocks for much of the planet's living natural capital stored in ecosystems. There is no natural stock market with investment portfolios into sea horses, amphibians, insects, and other creatures that provide a sustainable supply of ecosystem services that are valuable to society.[100] The ecological footprint of society has exceeded the bio-regenerative capacity limits of the planet's ecosystems by about 30 percent, which is the same percentage of vertebrate populations that have registered decline from 1970 through 2005.[98]

The inherent natural economy plays an essential role in sustaining humanity,[101] including the regulation of global atmospheric chemistry, pollinating crops, pest control,[102] cycling soil nutrients, purifying our water supply,[103] supplying medicines and health benefits,[104] and unquantifiable quality of life improvements. There is a relationship, a correlation, between markets and natural capital, and social income inequity and biodiversity loss. This means that there are greater rates of biodiversity loss in places where the inequity of wealth is greatest[105]

Although a direct market comparison of

GDP of that region.[112] This planetary wealth is being lost at an incredible rate as the demands of human society is exceeding the bio-regenerative capacity of the Earth. While biodiversity and ecosystems are resilient, the danger of losing them is that humans cannot recreate many ecosystem functions through technological innovation
.

Strategic species concepts

Keystone species

Some species, called a keystone species form a central supporting hub unique to their ecosystem.

overhunting, sea urchin populations grazed unrestricted on the kelp beds and the ecosystem collapsed. Left unchecked, the urchins destroyed the shallow water kelp communities that supported the Steller's sea cow's diet and hastened their demise.[114] The sea otter was thought to be a keystone species because the coexistence of many ecological associates in the kelp beds relied upon otters for their survival. However this was later questioned by Turvey and Risley,[115]
who showed that hunting alone would have driven the Steller's sea cow extinct.

Indicator species

An indicator species has a narrow set of ecological requirements, therefore they become useful targets for observing the health of an ecosystem. Some animals, such as

miner's canary. Indicator species are monitored in an effort to capture environmental degradation through pollution or some other link to proximate human activities.[5] Monitoring an indicator species is a measure to determine if there is a significant environmental impact that can serve to advise or modify practice, such as through different forest silviculture treatments and management scenarios, or to measure the degree of harm that a pesticide
may impart on the health of an ecosystem.

Government regulators, consultants, or

NGOs regularly monitor indicator species, however, there are limitations coupled with many practical considerations that must be followed for the approach to be effective.[116] It is generally recommended that multiple indicators (genes, populations, species, communities, and landscape) be monitored for effective conservation measurement that prevents harm to the complex, and often unpredictable, response from ecosystem dynamics (Noss, 1997[117]
: 88–89 ).

Umbrella and flagship species

An example of an umbrella species is the

monarch butterfly, because of its lengthy migrations and aesthetic value. The monarch migrates across North America, covering multiple ecosystems and so requires a large area to exist. Any protections afforded to the monarch butterfly will at the same time umbrella many other species and habitats. An umbrella species is often used as flagship species, which are species, such as the giant panda, the blue whale, the tiger, the mountain gorilla and the monarch butterfly, that capture the public's attention and attract support for conservation measures.[5] Paradoxically, however, conservation bias towards flagship species sometimes threatens other species of chief concern.[118]

Context and trends

Conservation biologists study trends and process from the

wetland draining and other human acts are proceeding much faster than human assessment of species. The latest Living Planet Report by the World Wide Fund for Nature estimates that we have exceeded the bio-regenerative capacity of the planet, requiring 1.6 Earths to support the demands placed on our natural resources.[120]

Holocene extinction

Conservation biologists are dealing with and have published

climate mitigation and climate restoration. The Earth's oceans demand particular attention as climate change continues to alter pH levels, making it uninhabitable for organisms with shells which dissolve as a result.[125]

Status of oceans and reefs

Global assessments of coral reefs of the world continue to report drastic and rapid rates of decline. By 2000, 27% of the world's coral reef ecosystems had effectively collapsed. The largest period of decline occurred in a dramatic "bleaching" event in 1998, where approximately 16% of all the coral reefs in the world disappeared in less than a year.

symbiotic algae and death of corals.[134] Decline and extinction risk in coral reef biodiversity has risen dramatically in the past ten years. The loss of coral reefs, which are predicted to go extinct in the next century, threatens the balance of global biodiversity, will have huge economic impacts, and endangers food security for hundreds of millions of people.[135] Conservation biology plays an important role in international agreements covering the world's oceans[134] (and other issues pertaining to biodiversity[136]
).

The oceans are threatened by acidification due to an increase in CO2 levels. This is a most serious threat to societies relying heavily upon oceanic

acclimate in response to the changes in the ocean chemistry.[137]

The prospects of averting mass extinction seems unlikely when "90% of all of the large (average approximately ≥50 kg), open ocean tuna, billfishes, and sharks in the ocean"

Groups other than vertebrates

Serious concerns also being raised about taxonomic groups that do not receive the same degree of social attention or attract funds as the vertebrates. These include fungal (including lichen-forming species),[138] invertebrate (particularly insect[14][139][140]) and plant communities where the vast majority of biodiversity is represented. Conservation of fungi and conservation of insects, in particular, are both of pivotal importance for conservation biology. As mycorrhizal symbionts, and as decomposers and recyclers, fungi are essential for sustainability of forests.[138] The value of insects in the biosphere is enormous because they outnumber all other living groups in measure of species richness. The greatest bulk of biomass on land is found in plants, which is sustained by insect relations. This great ecological value of insects is countered by a society that often reacts negatively toward these aesthetically 'unpleasant' creatures.[141][142]

One area of concern in the insect world that has caught the public eye is the mysterious case of missing

global warming are all being considered as possible causes.[144][145]

Another highlight that links conservation biology to insects, forests, and climate change is the mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae) epidemic of British Columbia, Canada, which has infested 470,000 km2 (180,000 sq mi) of forested land since 1999.[91] An action plan has been prepared by the Government of British Columbia to address this problem.[146][147]

This impact [pine beetle epidemic] converted the forest from a small net carbon sink to a large net carbon source both during and immediately after the outbreak. In the worst year, the impacts resulting from the beetle outbreak in British Columbia were equivalent to 75% of the average annual direct forest fire emissions from all of Canada during 1959–1999.

— Kurz et al.[92]

Conservation biology of parasites

A large proportion of parasite species are threatened by extinction. A few of them are being eradicated as pests of humans or domestic animals; however, most of them are harmless. Threats include the decline or fragmentation of host populations, or the extinction of host species.

Threats to biodiversity

Today, many threats to biodiversity exist. An acronym that can be used to express the top threats of present-day H.I.P.P.O stands for Habitat Loss, Invasive Species, Pollution, Human Population, and Overharvesting.

nutrient cycling across the earth, the reduction of migration is a serious matter for conservation biology.[155][156]

However, human activities need not necessarily cause irreparable harm to the biosphere. With conservation management and planning for biodiversity at all levels, from genes to ecosystems, there are examples where humans mutually coexist in a sustainable way with nature.[157] Even with the current threats to biodiversity there are ways we can improve the current condition and start anew.

Many of the threats to biodiversity, including disease and climate change, are reaching inside borders of protected areas, leaving them 'not-so protected' (e.g.

effects of global warming add a catastrophic threat toward a mass extinction of global biological diversity.[160] Conservationists have claimed that not all the species can be saved, and they have to decide which their efforts should be used to protect. This concept is known as the Conservation Triage.[148] The extinction threat is estimated to range from 15 to 37 percent of all species by 2050,[160] or 50 percent of all species over the next 50 years.[14] The current extinction rate is 100–100,000 times more rapid today than the last several billion years.[148]

See also

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Further reading

Scientific literature

Textbooks

General non-fiction

Periodicals

Training manuals

  • White, James Emery; Kapoor-Vijay, Promila (1992). Conservation biology: a training manual for biological diversity and genetic resources. London: Commonwealth Science Council, Commonwealth Secretariat. .

External links