Why Conservation?

Is thinking about conservation important to you (or your life)?  Why or why not?

When many people think of why conservation is important, they think simply of the ethical aspects of the question. Yes, we should help save the environment because it is the right thing to do, but there are also other benefits to preserving the biodiversity of our planet.

Economically, scientists need great diversity to synthesize genetically engineer the crops through seed banks. Natural pollinators are necessary for the production of many crops. A wide variety of organisms are needed to observe their potential medical value in bioprospecting, and their potential to metabolize toxic chemicals in bioremediation. Ecotourism is an industry based on the existence of nature preserves. Ecosystem services exist on the premise that the quality of the abiotic environment can be maintained by the presence of biotic organisms. The presence of natural forests can even reduce the cases of natural disasters such as mud slides.

Biologically, biodiversity is known to increase productivity in the environment. The presence of a diverse group of organisms allows for speciation. Specialized organisms are more efficient than generalists, and it is because of this that speciation leads to a more productive environment. A greater biodiversity also promotes mutualistic behaviors between organisms. Species may facilitate the growth of one another, and allow for even greater productivity. A theory called sampling effects also suggests that areas with more species are more probable to contain a species that is a “big producer,” and is therefore more likely to have greater productivity.

The stability of an environment also increases with increased biodiversity. Resistance, or the effect of a disturbance on a community, and resilience, the ability for the community to recover after a disturbance, is better in areas with more species. Species react in different ways to different forms of adversity. Therefore, in areas of greater diversity, there will be greater range in the way the species react to a disturbance. It is less likely that an entire region’s biomass will be depleted. In an area containing one species, a disease or drought could potentially wipe out the entire biomass because all organisms will react and die in the same way.

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