Conservation is Going Green

Abundant Wildlife are Conservation Stepchildren

I liked this article because it puts a new spin on conservation. Conservation is always focused on endangered or threatened species (for good reason!) However, this article looks at a paper (Abundance as a Conservation Value) written by scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society that offers a new view on conservation.  Scientists stressed in the article the importance of abundant wildlife to ecosystems and humans. Because many once extremely abundant species are in decline, it is becoming increasingly critical to focus on restoring animal populations before they need to be stamped with the Threatened or Endangered status. I liked the metaphor in the article: “It is like practicing medicine only in the emergency room and wondering why patients only increase in number.” It is important to fix minor “symptoms” of wildlife before they need to be admitted to the ER, where they have a significantly lower chance of recovery or survival. Scientists suggest the four main reasons to focus on this “phenomenon of abundance:”

1.       1. $$$! It is easier to recover/maintain higher population of species than try to save endangered species from extinction or bring them back from the dead (i.e Gastric Brooding frog).

2.      2.  Many critical ecosystem processes depend on abundant species (i.e. seed dispersal, nutrient transport/cycling, food chain regulation.)

3.      3.  “Abundance maintains other species –including humans – and ecosystems.” (i.e. our favorite buzzing pollinators, or fish for food)

4.       4. Personal benefits. Wildlife inspires people and allows people to “build connections with the natural world.”

I like this change of viewpoints, especially since wildlife conservation doesn’t possess endless amounts of cash. It will be important to find a balance between funding towards critically endangered species and funding towards wildlife maintenance/preservation. I also think that having the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) working on a “Green List” is a great idea. This Green List will showcase species that need an emphasis put on their maintenance or recovery. Hopefully this new development will keep more species off of the dreaded IUCN Red Lists (Threatened, Endangered, Extinct in the Wild, etc.). Furthermore, I hope that even if the Green List can’t help very much with the decline of a species, it will at least spur researchers to have more information on the populations of certain species. This might help in the future with maintaining maximum genetic variance when trying to rebuild a population. I think many species become endangered before scientists can adequately prepare for it. Researchers end up being in the very challenging position of trying to balance minimal inbreeding with healthy repopulation. This combination isn’t really a recipe for success, so hopefully we can avoid it in the future with this new conservation concept.

Zebras & Wildebeests. Wiki Commons: Muhammad Mahdi Karim

Zebras & Wildebeests. Wiki Commons: Muhammad Mahdi Karim

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2 responses to “Conservation is Going Green

  1. I like this spin! My own recent experience with colleagues made me realize how little others know of conservation efforts… which is the only reason I started a blog. 🙂

    The Green List idea is awesome! 🙂

    • I’m glad you liked the article! I know what you mean! I wanted to stay up-to-date on conservation news and be well-rounded as a biologist. I thought blogging would be a good way to do that too!

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