KEGS Biology Blog


Monday 15th October Section 2
October 15, 2012, 6:55 am
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Maintaining Biodiversity

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Many species of animals and plants are important to the global economy. Products derived from plant and animal species are traded on a local and global scale.

Economic Reasons:

1) Food and drink – plants and animals are the source of almost all food.
2) Clothing – many fibres and fabrics are made from plants (e.g cotton) and animals (e.g leather).
3) Drugs -can be manufactured from plant compounds.
4) Fuels – renewable fuels including biogas and ethanol.
5) Other industrial materials – for example, wood, paper, dyes, adhesives, oils, rubber (chemicals such as pesticides).

Ecological Reasons:

1) Disruption of food chains – the extinction of one species would result in the eventual extinction of another.
2) Disruption of nutrient cycles – organisms such as worms and other detritus feeders improve soil quality, therefore without these species, soil quality will drop, leading to low/poor plant yield, leading to a lower amount of food available to animals.
3) Loss of habitats – bushes and hedgerows provide networks for animals, therefore the removal would interfere with their nesting and hunting areas.
4) Habitat destruction – this predominantly contributes to climate change (release of stored CO2) due to deforestation.

Ethical Reasons:

1) Organisms have a right to exsist – they shouldn’t become extinct due to human activities.
2) Humans have a moral responsibility – to conserve biodiversity for future generations.
3) Religious/spiritual reasons – harmony with the natural world is important in many beliefs.

Aesthetic Reasons:

1) Areas rich in biodiversity provide an attractive environment
2) The more biodiversity, the more visitors (also an economic reason)

Agricultural Reasons:

1) Food sources – many species are used as food sources for humans and livestock. The higher the diversity, the more the choice.
2) Pollinators – many fruit/vegetable crops are pollinated by insects such as bees/butterflies. The higher the diversity, the more pollinators.

Medical Science:

1) Mecinal drugs – are manufactured using natural compounds found in plants/animals/microogranisms (e.g penicillin from fungus)
2) Only a small proportion of these species have been investigated, so there could be cures that could be derived from certain plants/animals that haven’t been discovered yet.
3) Possible sources of drugs that need to be protected by maintaining biodiversity. If not, they could become extinct, before their medicinal purposes are fully discovered.

Comment by Deelan Vadher

Task B) – Discuss the consequences of global climate change on the biodiversity of plants and animals, with reference to changing patterns on agriculture and the spread of disease.

Global Biodiversity is the total number of species on Earth. Biodiversity varies in different parts of the world – the greatest diversity is near the equator and it decreases towards the poles.

Climate Change is the variation in the Earth’s climate. It occurs naturally, but humans are impacting it due to increasing emissions of greenhouse gases (such as CO2). Greenhouse gases incease the global temperature (global warming) which causes climate change. This affects biodiversity in the following ways:-

1) Most species need a particular climate to survive
2) A change in in climate may mean that an area that was previously uninhabitable becomes habitable (and vice versa).
3) This may cause an increase/decrease in the range of some species which could INCREASE/DECREASE biodiversity.
4) Species may be forced to migrate to a more suitable area causing a change in species distribution. (This would DECREASE the biodiversity in the area they migrate from and increase it in the area they migrate to).
5) If there isn’t a suitable habitat to migrate to/the species is a plant (and can’t migrate) /or if the change is too fast, the species may become extinct (which will DECREASEbiodiversity).

Changes in temperature, rainfall, the timings of the seasons and the frequency of flood and drought will affect patterns of agriculture (which will affect biodiversity) in the following ways:

1) Land previously unsuitable becomes available for agriculture (INCREASING the biodiversity).
2) Different crops need different conditions – therefore, as the climate chages, so will the crops that can be grown. This could disrupt food chains and/or provide food for other species (which could INCREASE/DECREASE biodiversity).
3) Extreme weather events – seasonal timings, floods and droughts may result in a lower crop yield, resulting in a disrupted food chain and DECREASE biodiversity.

A changing climate could also contibute to the spread of disease, for example:

1) The ranges of disease-carrying insects may become greater. (this would increase biodiversity, but mainly DECREASE it through the spread od disease)
2) Warmer, wetter conditions may also encourage the spread of fungal diseases (which would lead to an INCREASE/DECREASE in biodiversity).

Comment by Deelan Vadher

Task in situ ex situ and comparison:

Conservation in situ is done to minimise the human impact on nature and protecting the natural environment. It may be done by creating laws to stop hunting or logging. It could also be done by building conservation parks. By having conservation areas you can stop any hunting or harm to the environment in this area. This allows a permanent protection and area for biodiversity to grow. It also facilitates scientific research and gives opportunities for ecologically sustainable land use. This allows for repopulation and increase in biodiversity also.
In-situ conservation is conserving genetic sources of plant and animal species so that types of organisms are preserved This is done by protecting or cleaning up the habitat itself, or by defending the species from predators.
Ex situ and captivation methods could be used but are more expensive and less effective and secure. You could do this by repairing damaged ecosystems to preserve rare and threatened species. Examples of in situ conservation in the form of natural reserves taking place in Swaziland include Malologja and Mlawula nature reserves. While the names of the plants and animals have not been well documented, such areas are known to be protected from human use for farming, cutting down of trees and hunting.

Nature reserve examples:

Benacre, Suffolk
“Some features of the reserve are man-made. Many of the site’s woodlands were planted as game cover, and the pits at Benacreness were created by gravel extraction.
The saline lagoons of the reserve were formed in shallow valleys when ice age glacial drift blocked the out-flow to the sea. They are the reserve’s main interest and support specialist species such as lagoon shrimp and starlet sea-anemone.
Over 100 breeding bird species use the reserve including marsh harrier, bearded reedling, water rail, a variety of ducks, and, in some years, bittern. Little terns are summer visitors to the shore and the heathlands are home to woodlark, wheatear and hobby.
A typical East Anglian shingle flora is to be found along the shore, with yellow-horned poppy, sea kale, sea holly and prickly saltwort. The northern dunes support extensive areas of sheep-bit and the rare grey hair grass.
The reedbeds support marsh sower thistle, marsh mallow and golden dock while on other parts of the reserve wild daffodil, climbing corydalis, orpine and greater broomrape can be found.”

Knocking Hoe, Bedfordshire
“The site’s grassland includes a wide range of characteristic chalk downland plants such as rockrose, dwarf thistle, clustered bellflower, lady’s tresses and hoary plantain. There are also large populations of pasque flower, fleawort, burnt-tip orchid and the very rare spotted cat’s-ear and moon carrot.

The site is grazed annually by sheep to keep the chalk grassland short which encourages wildflowers and invertebrates to thrive. The sheep are removed from site in early spring to allow the grassland species to flower and set seed. Encroaching scrub is also cut periodically to prevent it dominating the grassland”

bibliography wiki, natural england.co.uk

Comment by nisithadissanayake

EXPLAIN THE BENEFITS FOR AGRICULTURE OF MAINTAINING THE BIODIVERSTY OF ANIMAL AND PLANT SPECIES:
Economically, maintaining the biodiversity of animal and plant species ensures a variety of species which could be selectively bred to produce better output. For example, a mutation in a breed of cow may cause the milk yield to increase, and this characteristic could be used in agriculture to produce more milk. Furthermore, a wide variety of species could also increase chances of finding new foods which could benefit our health, and agriculture could be made more efficient by using different species.
Ecologically, a high biodiversity generally means that a disease is less likely to wipe out a large proportion of species, and this is vital in agriculture as we have selectively bred our plants and animals, thus developing species with little variation. For example in 1846, the Irish potato blight affected the whole country causing 1 million deaths because only two types of potato were planted that were both susceptible to the blight. This illustrates the benefits of maintaining biodiversity in agriculture. Also, plants resistant to pests and diseases that can reduce the need for application of harmful pesticides, economically benefiting farmers. Furthermore, crops need to be pollinated by insects, and by maintaining biodiversity there is a higher number of pollinators. This is extremely beneficial for agriculture as plants need to be pollinated in order for us to receive their fruit etc. Larger animals such as birds and mammals are useful to the agricultural ecosystem as they can disburse seeds, consume insect pests and serve as pollinators. Equally important they serve as a bridge between the agricultural ecosystem and the broader ecosystem. Therefore they are excellent indicators of sustainability in the ‘agro- ecosystem’.
Another ecological benefit for maintain biodiversity on agriculture is soil richness. Low soil biodiversity results in poor soil nutrient quality which will lead to poor crop yield. Furthermore, drought resistant plants can help save water through reducing the need for irrigation- deeper rooting varieties can help stabilize soils. Productive agricultural systems reduce or eliminate altogether the need for deforestation or to clear fragile lands to create more farmland for food production.
Maintaining biodiversity can lead to innovative approaches to agriculture. For example, in China, farmers place baby carp into their paddies as they planted rice seedlings. Rice-fish farming can be traced back to over 2000 years ago, an idea which was thwarted by The Green Revolution in Asia. These rice-fish culture system can produce from 300 to 900 kilograms of fish per hectare or 300 to 750 kilograms of prawns or crabs per hectare. Fish eat pests such as stemborer and leaffolder and so they reduce the need for pesticides. They also eat weeds that choke rice paddies and bacteria such as sheath blight disease and disease-infected leaves, reducing herbicide use.
Biodiversity of animals can also aid agriculture industries as they are used as biological control that can help naturally eradicate any unwanted species that could harm the crop or be an alternative food source for the crop pests. They are mainly insects and spiders and other arthropods that help control any pest outbreaks, for example: Ladybugs and in particular, their larvae which are active between May and July in the northern hemisphere, are predators of aphids, and will also consume mites, scale insects and small caterpillars.

Comment by mehleen

Wildlife trade is big business, estimated to be worth billions of dollars annually. As wildlife and its products cross borders between countries, extra efforts and international cooperation are necessary to regulate it and safeguard certain species from over-exploitation. CITES was conceived in the spirit of such cooperation. It entered into force in 1975 and today has 175 Parties. It is both a conservation treaty and a trade treaty. It aims to ensure that international trade in wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival and further contribute to the current extinction crisis. CITES accords protection to more than 30,000 species of animals and plants
What is the Rio Convention on Biodiversity?
Signed by 150 government leaders at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, the Convention on Biological Diversity is dedicated to promoting sustainable development. Conceived as a practical tool for translating the principles of Agenda 21 into reality, the Convention recognizes that biological diversity is about more than plants, animals and microorganisms and their ecosystems – it is about people and our need for food security, medicines, fresh air and water, shelter, and a clean and healthy environment in which to live.

Comment by halima101

Task: Discuss the importance of industrial cooperation in species conservation with reference to The Conservation In Industrial Trade In Endangered Species (CITES) and the Rio Convention On Biodiversity.

Wildlife trade is big business, estimated to be worth billions of dollars annually. As wildlife and its products cross borders between countries, extra efforts and international cooperation are necessary to regulate it and safeguard certain species from over-exploitation. CITES was conceived in the spirit of such cooperation. It entered into force in 1975 and today has 175 Parties. It is both a conservation treaty and a trade treaty. It aims to ensure that international trade in wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival and further contribute to the current extinction crisis. CITES accords protection to more than 30,000 species of animals and plants
What is the Rio Convention on Biodiversity?
Signed by 150 government leaders at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, the Convention on Biological Diversity is dedicated to promoting sustainable development. Conceived as a practical tool for translating the principles of Agenda 21 into reality, the Convention recognizes that biological diversity is about more than plants, animals and microorganisms and their ecosystems – it is about people and our need for food security, medicines, fresh air and water, shelter, and a clean and healthy environment in which to live.

Comment by halima101

CITES was founded to ensure cooperation between countries involved in the trade in animals. It became legally effective in 1975 and has 175 parties today. It is not only a conservation treaty but also a trade treaty. It attempts to ensure that global dealings in animals and plants do not threaten their survival and contribute to the Holocene Extinction event. CITES protects more than 30,000 species of animals and plants

The convention on biological diversity was signed by 150 governments at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. It is dedicated to promoting sustainable development. Set up as a tool for bringing the principles of Agenda 21 into effect, the Convention states that biological diversity is about more than the survival of rare organisms, it is also related to people and the need for human food security, new medication, water, and safe living areas.

The global animal transportation business is worth billions of dollars every year. As different species and products cross borders between countries, additional effort and international cooperation is required to control and protect rare species.

Comment by yuansun

Task: Ex situ and In situ conservation.

IN SITU conservation is minimising impact on the natural environment and protecting the natural environment. It includes leaving plants and animals in their natural habitats and enforcing laws to protect them.

Key points regarding in sut conservation include:
-Comprehensiveness (how many species are represented?)
-Adequacy (is it large enough for long term survival?)
-Representative (is there a full range of biodiversity?)

Advantages of in situ conservation include:
-Plants and animals are conserved in their natural habitat.
Protects biodiverswity.
-Scientific research.
May be possible to restore the plants back into the wild.

National parks (10 in the UK). National Nature Reserves (215) and Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI- 6000+) are all examples of in situ conservation areas; Dawes Hall is a SSSI and conserves Black Poplar clone bakns and Yellow Rattle.

EX SITU means taking the animal or plant outside of its natural environment such as in botanical gardens or by captive breeding of animals.

Zoos specialise in breeding endangered animals as they keep the animals away from predators, provide medical care and feed the animals regularly and appropriately.

The problems with ex situ conservation are:
-Very expensive.
-Genetic diversity reduced.
-Less adaption.
-Reintroduction possible?

Comment by danialnaqvi

Discuss the significance of environmental impact assessments (including biodiversity estimates) for local authority planning decisions.

Environmental Impact Assessments
– the process of assessing the biophysical and social effects of development proposals
– began in the 1960s
– Helps to protect species eg endangered species
– Helpful in decision making – offers alternatives and measures to be taken before commitments
– provides increased protection of human health
– provides sustainable use of natural resources
– minimises risks of environmental disasters
– protection of endangered species
Looks at:
– land use
– socio economics
– transportation
– air/ noise pollution
– endangered species
– flood zone susceptibility
– coastal zone erosion
Screening
– allows authorities to decide whether an EIA is needed or not
– avoids or minimises adverse affects on biodiversity
– takes potential consequences of development into account
– informs of any changes that will aid the environment

Examples
– Great Crested Newt – endangered species in the UK and is protected by law. If newts are found in an area that is proposed for development then something will be done i.e. the development will not go ahead or measures will be taken to ensure that the newts are not endangered by the destruction of their habitat.

Comment by hannahgooch

Outline the reasons for the conservation of animals and plant species, with reference to medical, ethical, ecological, economical and aesthetic reasons.

Medical Science:
One of the practical uses for maintaining biodiversity is that it prevents species from extinction, many of which have benefits in researching sciences, a large number of which we are not actually aware of and have not been discovered yet. For example the death stalker scorpion found in the Middle East and North Africa, has venom powerful enough to kill a child or elderly person. However the venom also contains an ingredient called chlorotoxin, which in extremely small doses can effectively kill or replace the cancer causing cell mutations. Developments such as this may eventually help to find cures for life threatening diseases, such as cancer, and it is one of the reasons why maintaining biodiversity will benefit us. We also manufacture basic drugs that are used widely in medicine such as Penicillin from fungus, and drugs such as this have allowed great developments in medicine.
Although many people often disagree with it, animal testing is a useful way in which to test new drugs or treatments without potentially causing harm to humans. Using animals in experimentation has led to the creation of vaccines, antibiotics, therapies, surgical techniques and medications, saving and improving lives around the world. It is argued that experimenting on live animals produces more accurate and practical results than experimenting on cell cultures.

Ethical:

It is an accepted fact that animals are sentient beings to some degree, therefore we see it as our responsibility to care for them or improve their lives if we have in some way hindered them. For example deforestation is caused by human actions, and as a result biodiversity reduces, and many animals lose their habitat. We are clearly responsible for this action, and now as a result it is often required that there must be a plan of action to rebuild the habitat after it being destroyed that must be followed through. It is our responsibility to conserve and improve the biodiversity for future generations.
Many religions also teach that respecting the environment is necessary and the moral thing to do. For example Buddhism attaches great importance to wildlife and the protection of biodiversity. Respect for life in the natural world is essential, and by living simply one can be in harmony with other creatures and learn to appreciate the interconnectedness of all that lives. This is not to claim that nature is unchanging; Buddhism recognizes change as the very essence of nature.

Ecological:

We have an interest to conserve biodiversity and prevent extinction of species as a species going extinct can have negative effects on the local biodiversity and food chains in that area. For example if all the deer in Africa became extinct, the lions would also suffer as they would have less food to eat, and this would result in a decline in their population.

Disruption of nutrient cycles – organisms such as worms and other detritus feeders improve soil quality, this means that if they were to become extinct, we would result a direct negative effect of this, and have poor soil quality/a lower crop yield and as a result make less money.

Loss of habitats – bushes and hedgerows provide networks for animals, therefore the removal would interfere with their nesting and hunting areas. This can have a knock effect on to other animals in the food chain as mentioned above, e.g. if field mice lose their habitat, although it is not the habitat of owls, they will also suffer as a large supply of their food will be lost.

Habitat destruction – this predominantly contributes to climate change (release of stored CO2) due to deforestation. It also applies to the loss of habitats on a smaller scale though. In a time where space is becoming increasingly scarce for construction, habitats such as woodland or meadows are being impeded by construction of buildings and infrastructure.

Aesthetic – Although it may not be the most important factor when considering the importance of maintaining biodiversity, aesthetic reasons are still a major part of why the Earth’s biodiversity should be maintained. Most people “experience a feeling of joy and well-being” when observing nature, and all the different shapes and sizes in which it can be found. E.g. the cultivation of flowers is an example of biodiversity maintained largely for aesthetic reasons, i.e. simply to make gardens/village greens etc. look nice. By using biodiversity to increase the appeal of an area, this may also benefit some people in other ways, i.e. shops may use flowers to attract customers, putting biodiversity to economic use. Biodiversity is said to be essential for our physical, intellectual and emotional health, with evidence to support the notion that patients recover from stress and injury more quickly when exposed to pleasing environmental conditions, brought about by a high degree of biodiversity. It would be ignorant therefore, to discount the appearance of living organisms as a reason to attempt to maintain their existence.

Economic – In some areas, high biodiversity can be the difference between life and death for a number of people, as their livelihoods depend on it. The most obvious example of this is Western Africa, particularly Kenya and Tanzania, where a large percentage of inhabitants depend on the tourism brought about by the high levels of biodiversity found in game reserves, e.g. Massai mara. A number of other industries depend on biodiversity also, mainly due to the natural resources it supplies, such as wood for paper, oils, leather and cotton used to make clothes, fuel, both renewable (e.g. ethanol) and non-renewable (e.g. oil) and food, e.g. fish.
As well as this, we rely on biodiversity for solutions to our problems, for example the best aerodynamic shape in water, or the best shape for an aerofoil or wing. Economists and environmentalists estimate the value of natural ecosystems to us to be around $33×10ˈ². If we do not maintain biodiversity, we may end up losing the solutions to future problems we are yet to face, which, with the help of organisms, we would easily be able to solve.

Jake Palmer and Spencer Finch

http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/health/breakthroughs/the-positive-power-in-deadly-poison#slide-1
http://www.englisharticles.info/2010/12/20/religion-and-biodiversity/

Comment by jakepalmer1

Discuss the role of botanic gardens in the ex situ conservation of wild plant species or plant species extinct in the wild, with reference to seed banks.

Botanic gardens are well tended to areas which display a wide variety of plants, and most botanical gardens are involved with conservation of endangered species. These plants may be kept for either scientific or commercial purposes, or both. For example, Kew Gardens is an ex situ botanical garden in London, which contains many plants which would not otherwise grow in London due to the natural environment being unsuitable for that species. However, botanical gardens artificially create the optimum conditions for the species to thrive within.
If a plant species is extinct in the wild, it could be due to a number of different reasons. For example, a plant may have been made extinct by a particularly dominant predator, human interference or a disease spreading amongst the species. However, if a botanical garden can retrieve just one organism of that species and grow it, then from there it could be developed to create large numbers of the plant in an ex situ conservation site such as Kew Gardens. As seeds are produced in large numbers, they can be collected from the wild without too much disturbance to the ecosystem or damaging the wild population. 
These seeds can be stored in huge numbers without occupying too much space and germinated in protected surroundings. As plants often breed asexually, the botanical gardens can increase the number of individuals very quickly. This provides an ample supply of individuals for research, which can then lead to the captive-bred individuals being replanted in the wild.
However, botanical gardens may not always be a good thing. Firstly, any collection of wild seeds will cause some disturbance to the ecosystem. Also, the collected samples may not hold a representative selection of genetic diversity. If the plants are bred completely asexually, then any genetic mutations will be spread and the gene pool will be severely reduced, leading to no genetic variation as all offspring are clones. Also, seeds collected from one area may not survive in a new habitat. For example, a dandelion in Scotland may be genetically different to a dandelion found in Spain, and so scientists cannot be 100% sure as to whether the seed will be completely viable for survival in the new area. There is also an issue of when seeds are stored for a long time; they may not be able to grow when planted after a lengthy period of inactivity. Finally, conclusions from research based on a small sample may not be valid for the whole species.

Seed Banks
A seed bank is a collection of seed samples. They contain seeds that can remain viable for decades and possibly hundreds of years. The seeds are not simply being stored. Some of them are being used to provide a wind range of benefits to humanity, such as providing food and building materials for rural communities, to disease-resistant crops for agriculture. The seeds can also be used for habitat reclamation and repopulation.
In order to prolong their viability, seeds are stored in very dry or freezing conditions. Seeds are resistant to desiccation, and the level of moisture in each has a direct effect on storage. For every 1% decrease in seed moisture level, the life span doubles. For every 5 degrees celsius reduction in temperature, the life span also doubles. Seeds stored for decades, however, may deteriorate and there is little use in storing such seeds. Therefore, it is essential to test the seeds at regular intervals to check their viability.
Scientists at Kew carry out some 10,000 germination tests each year;
They must remove samples and germinate them periodically.
They ‘plant’ the seeds in Petri dishes of nutrient agar (not ager!) and keep them in controlled conditions.
Scientists measure the germination rate (% of seeds that germinate) and the success of germination.
This enables scientists to monitor the condition of stored seeds.
Research continues into the physiology of seed dormancy and germination. With luck this will lead to discovery of the most effective methods of storage.

Comment by gautammenon1

How important is international cooperation to conserve species

The CITES convention was a ground-breaking new initiative to protect wildlife across the globe and has achieved much since first set-up. Along with the Rio convention international cooperation has definitely been a key role in the maintenance of bio-diversity.

The reasons for this international cooperation are many. Firstly many animals migrate, especially marine ones, for example the blue whale. Its massive migration pattern means the animals are constantly moving from one countries waters to another and to properly protect this animal along with many more species which are much more at risk countries need to work together to make sure there are no gaps in the protection plan and that all countries are working towards the same goals, be that observation, tracking or capture for ex-situ management.

Another reason is that many countries with the most biodiversity are too poor to manage them. An example of this is Costa Rica with a huge biodiversity it cannot afford to manage the area and huge swathes of forest were cut down to provide jobs for the area. The international community however has helped changed this by helping the Costa Rican government to subsidise business which don’t harm the environment and a thriving Eco-tourism sector has now opened up in Costa Rica and the biodiversity is managed.

These two reasons are the two most important reasons for international cooperation and show just how important it is to help maintaining biodiversity.

Jaimie Clifford

Comment by jaimieclifford

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/nov/02/ash-dieback-cobra-crisis-meeting?intcmp=122

Article on recent Ash populations in England affected by disease – shows government action and further effect on wildlife

Comment by helenquah

http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/20225243
Another article on biodiversity hotspots

Comment by helenquah




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