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Habitat conservation is a management practice that seeks to
History of the conservation movement
For much of human history, nature was seen as a
Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, social views started to change and conservation principles were first practically applied to the
Rather than focusing on the economic or material benefits from nature, humans began to appreciate the value of nature itself and the need to protect it. By the mid-20th century, countries such as the United States, Canada, and Britain instigated laws and legislation in order to ensure that the most fragile and beautiful environments would be protected for posterity. Today, with the help of
Values of natural habitat
However, there is also the economic value in conserving natural habitats. Financial profit can be made from tourist revenue, for example in the tropics where species diversity is high, or in recreational sports which take place in natural environments such as hiking and mountain biking. The cost of repairing damaged ecosystems is considered to be much higher than the cost of conserving natural ecosystems.
Measuring the worth of conserving different habitat areas is often criticized as being too utilitarian from a philosophical point of view.
Habitat conservation is important in maintaining biodiversity, an essential part of global food security. There is evidence to support a trend of accelerating erosion of the genetic resources of agricultural plants and animals. An increase in genetic similarity of agricultural plants and animals means an increased risk of food loss from major epidemics. Wild species of agricultural plants have been found to be more resistant to disease, for example the wild corn species Teosinte is resistant to 4 corn diseases that affect human grown crops. A combination of seed banking and habitat conservation has been proposed to maintain plant diversity for food security purposes.
Classifying environmental values
Pearce and Moran outlined the following method for classifying environmental uses:
- Direct extractive uses: e.g. timber from forests, food from plants and animals
- Indirect uses: e.g. ecosystem services like flood control, pest control, erosion protection
- Optional uses: future possibilities e.g. unknown but potential use of plants in chemistry/medicine
- Non-use values:
- Bequest value (benefit of an individual who knows that others may benefit from it in future)
- Passive use value (sympathy for natural environment, enjoyment of the mere existence of a particular species)
Humans have been the cause of many species’ extinction. Due to humans’ changing and modifying their environment, the habitat of other species often become altered or destroyed as a result of human actions. The altering of habitats will cause habitat fragmentation, reducing the species' habitat and decreasing their dispersal range. This increases species isolation which then causes their population to decline. Even before the modern industrial era, humans were having widespread, and major effects on the environment. A good example of this is found in Aboriginal Australians and Australian megafauna. Aboriginal hunting practices, which included burning large sections of forest at a time, eventually altered and changed Australia's vegetation so much that many herbivorous megafauna species were left with no habitat and were driven into extinction. Once herbivorous megafauna species became extinct, carnivorous megafauna species soon followed. In the recent past, humans have been responsible for causing more extinctions within a given period of time than ever before.
Approaches and methods of habitat conservation
Determining the size, type and location of habitat to conserve is a complex area of conservation biology. Although difficult to measure and predict, the conservation value of a habitat is often a reflection of the quality (e.g.
Identifying priority habitats for conservation
Habitat conservation is vital for protecting species and ecological processes. It is important to conserve and protect the space/ area in which that species occupies.
HCPs require clearly defined goals and objectives, efficient monitoring programs, as well as successful communication and collaboration with stakeholders and land owners in the area. Reserve design is also important and requires a high level of planning and management in order to achieve the goals of the HCP. Successful reserve design often takes the form of a hierarchical system with the most valued habitats requiring high protection being surrounded by buffer habitats that have a lower protection status. Like HCPs, hierarchical reserve design is a method most often used to protect a single species, and as a result habitat corridors are maintained, edge effects are reduced and a broader suite of species are protected.
How much habitat is needed
A range of methods and models currently exist that can be used to determine how much habitat is to be conserved in order to sustain a
Examples of current conservation organizations
The Nature Conservancy
Since its formation in 1951 The Nature Conservancy has slowly developed into one of the world's largest conservation organizations. Currently operating in over 30 countries, across five continents worldwide, The Nature Conservancy aims to protect nature and its assets for future generations. The organization purchases land or accepts land donations with the intention of conserving its natural resources. In 1955 The Nature Conservancy purchased its first 60-acre plot near the New York/Connecticut border in the United States of America. Today the Conservancy has expanded to protect over 119 million acres of land, 5,000 river miles as well as participating in over 1000 marine protection programs across the globe . Since its beginnings The Nature Conservancy has understood the benefit in taking a scientific approach towards habitat conservation. For the last decade the organization has been using a collaborative, scientific method known as ‘Conservation by Design’. By collecting and analyzing scientific data The Conservancy is able to holistically approach the protection of various ecosystems. This process determines the habitats that need protection, specific elements that should be conserved as well as monitoring progress so more efficient practices can be developed for the future.
The Nature Conservancy currently has a large number of diverse projects in operation. They work with countries around the world to protect forests, river systems, oceans, deserts and grasslands. In all cases the aim is to provide a sustainable environment for both the plant and animal life forms that depend on them as well as all future generations to come. turtles
World Wildlife Fund (WWF)
Rare has been in operation since 1973 with current global partners in over 50 countries and offices in the United States of America, Mexico, the Philippines, China and Indonesia. Rare focuses on the human activity that threatens biodiversity and habitats such as overfishing and unsustainable agriculture. By engaging local communities and changing behaviour Rare has been able to launch campaigns to protect areas in most need of conservation. The key aspect of Rare's methodology is their "Pride Campaign’s". For example, in the Andes in South America, Rare has incentives to develop watershed protection practices. In the Southeast Asia's "coral triangle" Rare is training fishers in local communities to better manage the areas around the coral reefs in order to lessen human impact. Such programs last for three years with the aim of changing community attitudes so as to conserve fragile habitats and provide ecological protection for years to come.
WWF Netherlands, along with ARK Nature, Wild Wonders of Europe and Conservation Capital have started the Rewilding Europe project. This project intents to rewild several areas in Europe.
- Conservation biology
- Conservation ethic
- Environmental impact of reservoirs
- Environmental protection
- Habitat corridor
- Habitat fragmentation
- Marine conservation
- Natural capital
- Natural environment
- Natural landscape
- Natural resource
- Refuge (ecology)
- Renewable resource
- Sustainable agriculture
- Sustainable development
- Sustainable land management
- Trail ethics
- Water conservation
- Wildlife corridor
- Wildlife crossing
- International Union for Conservation of Nature
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