Conservation = the management of our environment to maintain biodiversity.
- Biodiversity encompasses genetic diversity (the variety of alleles within a species), species diversity (the variety of species within a habitat) and habitat diversity (the variety of habitats within an ecosystem).
The global gene pool is a resource for learning more about life on Earth, and some genes may be able to provide us with useful products for medicine and biotechnology.
To maintain the gene pool we need to preserve species diversity and to conserve species diversity we must provide suitable niches for all species by preserving habitat diversity. So a key aim of conservation is to prevent further destruction of habitats and preserve as wide a range of habitats as possible.
Conservation is therefore not a matter of leaving the environment untouched.
Instead conservation involves active intervention to manage succession and maintain a wide variety of different plagioclimaxes.
- Moorland is maintained by periodic burning. Fire kills treesaplings but not heather, which is fire-resistant and re-grows after a few weeks.
- Grassland is maintained by grazing animals, which prevent the growth of shrubs and trees, but allows grasses to grow. Where succession has been allowed to take place,grassland can be restored by felling and removing the shrubs and trees. Grazing by sheep and rabbits leaves grass particularly short and creates unique environments.
- Wetlands are maintained by dredging to prevent silting up and succession, and by ensuring the water supply is free from pollution by farms and factories upstream.
- Woodland is maintained by replacing non-native conifer plantations with native broad-leaved trees and reducing density by thinning. Thinning allows more light to reach the ground layer, encouraging the growth of shrubs and wildflowers. A forest can be managed by coppicing and pollarding, which allow timber to be harvested, while conserving the forest.
- Hedgerows and field margins are small but important habitats for conserving diversity in farmland. They are maintained by occasional cutting back to prevent succession to a climax forest.