Topic 2 - Rationale for wildlife conservation

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Knowledge and understanding

The rationale for wildlife conservation

Knowledge and understanding

By studying wildlife, we can learn a great deal of interesting information that is useful in understanding ourselves, why wildlife conservation is important and how successful conservation strategies can be planned.

Human behaviour

By studying other primates, particularly the great apes, such as gorillas and chimpanzees, we can learn about social structures and group behaviour.

The interdependence of life on Earth

If we understand how species affect each other, then we may also understand how our survival relies upon the survival of other species with which we share the Earth.

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Biomimetics

The rationale for wildlife conservation

Biomimetics

Biomimetics is the knowledge of how other species are adapted to survive and the application of knowledge to solving human engineering problems.

  • Soaring birds, such as eagles, storks and vultures, use spread wingtip feathers to reduce the flow of air from underneath the wing where the air pressure is higher, to above the wing. This reduces air vortices and increases the lift of the wing.
  • Aircraft now have fins fitted to their wings to achieve the same effect.
  • The bones of birds must have thing walls to make them light. Their strength is retained by having internal cross-trusses to prevent the bone bending and snapping. 
  • Similar trusses are used inside tubular bridges so that they can be strong but light.
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Aesthetics and recreation

The rationale for wildlife conservation

Aesthetics and recreation

  • Furry, cuddly and appealing species such as pandas, monkeys and oenguins are more popular than spiders, snakes and slugs.
  • However, species do not live in isolation from each other.
  • The more aesthetically pleasing species may require services of less popular ones to survive.
  • Most people enjoy seeing wildlife as it increases their quality of life.
  • This often creates economic benefits at visitor attractions such as zoos and wildlife parks, through membership of conservation organisations or through ecotourism activities such as bird-watching and whale-watching.
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Morals

The rationale for wildlife conservation

Morals

  • Many people believe other organisms have a right tolife and that it is wrong to kill unnecessarily.
  • Public concern is greatest when high-profile animals such as whales, tigers or elephants are threatened. 
  • Most people would support the right of other species to exist, but fewer would argue that malaria mosquitoes, parasitic worms or rats have a similar right.
  • So, the moral argument for wildlife conservation is based on subjective opinion rather than objective fact.
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Ethics

The rationale for wildlife conservation

Ethics

  • In more affluent species it is not necessary to exploit wildlife for food, but in some societies it is an essential part of the diet, such as the collection of wild birds' eggs and 'bushmeat'.
  • In less economically developed countries, many people may have no alternative source of food and it would be difficult to convince someone that they have less of a right to live than their source of food has.
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Economic reasons

The rationale for wildlife conservation

Economic reasons

  • We can easily forget the beneits we have gained in the past from wild species and that also all domesticated or sultivated species were once wild.
  • We may also be ignorant of the enormous potential we are currently losing, as species that we have never studied become rarer and evenutally extinct.

Medical benefits

Physiological research

  • Many species have been used for physiological research in such diverse areas as nerve function, leprosy and drug teratology.
  • Nerve function - squid have wide diameter nerve cells that are easier to study than mammal nerves. Research on them has helped improve our understanding of cell membrane ion pups and therfore problems including heart disease, stroke and alzheimer's disease.
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Economic reasons

The rationale for wildlife conservation

Medical benefits

Development of new medicines

  • Many plants, especially those in the tropics, produce biologically active chemicals such as alkaloids that may kill the pests that eat them.
  • In controlled doses they may have medical uses in treating human disease.
  • Poppies - painkillers (morphine and codeine).
  • Mexican wild yam - diosgenin, derivatives of which have been used to make many steroid medicines including the first contraceptive pill.
  • Yew tree - taxol, extracted to treat breast cancer.


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Economic reasons

The rationale for wildlife conservation

Food resources

New food species

  • Indigenous species are usually better adapted to the local climate, pests and soil conditions than introduced species and therefore may give better yields.
  • Selective breeding ay be needed to enhance desirable characteristics and eliminate undesirable ones so species that have no obvious use could become very valuable.
  • Most of the species that are currently farmed were domesticated a long time ago, but there have been some recent attempts to domesticate new species, including aniams as bison, eland, ostrich, cane rat and giant snail.
  • In Papua New Guinea, there are 250 plant species that yield edible fruit, but fewer than 50 are currently cultivated.
  • There are 1,500 plant species in the spinach family. They grow well in salt-rich soils and could be grown in areas where irrigation has caused soil salinisation.
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Economic reasons

The rationale for wildlife conservation

Food resources

Wild varieties for breeding programmes - protecting the gene pool

  • For commercial crop species, relatively few varieties of crops are grown and each variety may be quite uniform genetically. 
  • If it is necessary or desirable to breed new characteristics into the crop, then it will probably be necessary to look outside the highly bred commercial varieties.
  • Varieties grown in subsistence farming areas or wild varieties, are more likely to hold these desirbale characteristcs that are not found in the commerical varieties.
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Economic reasons

The rationale for wildlife conservation

Food resources

Gene pool

  • The gene pool is the total number of different genes in all of the individuals in a population.
  • A small population with great genetic variety may have a larger gene pool than a large population of genetically similar individuals.
  • Domesticated species are often inbred, having been produced from a very small number of original ancestors.
  • They lack wide variety of characteristcs found in wild or commercially unimportant varieties.
  • They may therefore be less able to cope with changes in conditions beyond the limited range to which they are all adapted.
  • There is also a greater risk of disadvantageous recessive genes causing problems.

Other material resources

Wood for contruction, paper, fuel. Insecticides. Fibres like cotton, wool, flax. Cosmetics. Dyes. Skins. Oils.

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Life-support system

The rationale for wildlife conservation

The Earth's life-support systems

  • The life-support systems that allow life to survive on Earth are partly maintained by living organisms. 
  • As human numbers and our individual imaocts on the planet increase, it becomes more important to understand how the life-support systems of Earth function and how we may affect them.

Maintenance of the atmosphere

  • The organisms that photosythensise remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and relsase oxygen. This is a vital service for all forms of life on Earth, not just those that are aerobic and require oxygen for respiration.
  • If carbon dioxide levels had not been reduced from their original levels, then the greenhuse effect would have made the Earth too hot for life to exist.
  • Oxygen in the straosphere produces ozone that abosorbs UV light.
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Life-support system

The rationale for wildlife conservation

The role of plants in the hydrological cycle

Plants increase humidity by returning water to the atmosphere through transpiration and by the evaporation of rainwater that landed on leaves. This rise in humidity increases future rainfall downwind.

Soil formation and conservation

  • Dead organic matter from plants and animals provides nutrients for future plant growth but the nutrients are only released by the actions of other organisms.
  • Detritivores, such as beetles, millipedes and woodlice, break up the dead organic matter, which is then broken down by the enzymes released by decomposers such as bacteria and fungi.
  • The foilage and roots of plants help to protect soil by reducing the eroision caused by wind and water.
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Species interdependence

The rationale for wildlife conservation

Food supplies

  • Food species provide an obvious service to the species that eat them.
  • Predators may also benefit the species they eat by removing the sick and weak.

Pollination

  • The flowers of many plants are pollinated by animals including insects, birds and bats.
  • This is a much more reliable method than wind pollination as the pollinating animal will deliberately seek out the flowers for their nectar anf therefore transfer the pollen between flowers.
  • Many flowers have evolved to attract particular insects. Equally, many insects have evolved to feed from particular plants.

 

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Species interdependence

The rationale for wildlife conservation

Seed dispersal

  • Wind dispersal of seeds is haphazard and does not usually carry the seeds very far.
  • The seeds have to be small to travel very far, which reduces the amount of food energy carried in the seed and therefore its ability to produce a seedling plant.
  • Animal disersal is more reliable. Fruits often have brightly coloured, tasty flesh to attract anmals when the seeds are ready to spread.
  • The seeds may pass through the animals intestine and be delivered to a suitable habitat in faecal material, which acts as a fertiliser.
  • The seeds of many species are stimulated to germinate by their passage though the gut.

Habitat provision

One species may provide a habitat for others, such as birdsnesting in trees or small animals sheltering under logs or in leaf litter.

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