The planet we live in is rapidly changing. Every day, new plants and new animals come into this world, but every day, new chemicals, new human actions result in the reduction of plant and wildlife. While plants and animals are important commodities for humans, their preservation is also important for the existence of biodiversity in this world, which in turn affects the quality of human life. Without plants and animals, we human beings will not even survive one day. This is why conservation of plants and animals is so crucial, in fact probably the most important thing in the world today.
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Conservation of plants and animals – What are the main challenges?
Approximately 30 percent of the earth’s land is covered by forests, and of that, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that 18 million acres of forest are lost every year. Deforestation, the clearing of forested areas to non-forested areas for repurposing land, occurs today due to agricultural needs, urbanization, and the emission of harmful toxins into the environment. Below we explore the causes of deforestation in greater detail:
Increasing trend in urban development
Population increase forces the need for urban development. Employment opportunities cause population shift towards urban spaces, necessitating forests to be cleared to make space for residential neighbourhoods. Hence, the world has seen an increase in the construction of high-rises and buildings.
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In some sub-Saharan African countries, fuelwood is used more frequently than the rate of tree growth. When these trees are cut down, the species that occupy the trees lose their habitats.
Industrialized countries consume wood at much higher rates than their non-industrial counterparts. Forests are cleared to establish industries and warehouses. Carbon emission and harmful gasses released from such factories affect the wildlife and environment. Additionally, the likes of paper or furniture industries rely on the use of wood or plant resources, contributing to deforestation.
Population growth increases demands for food. Since agriculture is a major source of food supply, forests are cleared to establish agricultural plots. Food industries have added incentive to clear forests and establish agricultural grounds, for organizational profits.
Forest fires and droughts can also result in deforestation. The lack of water can cause trees to die or for vegetation not to flourish, taking with it the habitat in which animals would have thrived. Similarly, forest fires incinerate large portions of forests, majorly affecting plant and animal life.
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Consequences of Deforestation
Deforestation has many egregious consequences. Both temperatures and pollution increase, affecting human life. Groundwater level, overall precipitation amount, and soil fertility all decrease drastically. As these climatic and geological changes take shape, natural disasters like droughts and floods become more rampant. The capacity of soil to hold water, and for water to infiltrate decreases, while nutritional content, texture, and soil fertility also change.
As soil properties change and plant growth declines, the soil will erode. The hard, rocky layer underneath is less fertile. As this happens, a previously forested ground can become a desert, in a process known as desertification.
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Another major impact of deforestation is the much talked about global warming. Since trees are responsible for using the carbon dioxide present in the atmosphere, decline in trees results in an increased level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This CO2 traps the heat rays reflected from the surface of the earth, causing an increase in atmospheric temperature and interrupting the natural cycle of water, reducing rainfall.
Conservation of plants and animals
Globally, governments have taken measures to prevent the loss of forests and wildlife. In addition to regulations and policies pertaining to the cutting of trees and hunting of animals, governments have established sanctuaries, national parks, and biosphere reserves, where plantations, cultivation, deforestation processes, grazing, hunting, poaching, and other activities that decrease plant and wildlife are prohibited.
- Human activities are very limited in these areas, and animals are free from any external disturbance
- The natural habitat of animals is preserved, and they can use all natural resources freely
- Animals are usually found roaming freely, and human activity and visits are usually heavily regulated in these areas
- These areas are usually meant to conserve wildlife, plant life, and the lives of traditional tribes
- The focus of these regions is to maintain and preserve biodiversity specific to the region
What is biodiversity?
Biodiversity refers to the multitude of different organisms living on this planet, their relationship with each other, and their relationship with the environment in which they live.
Some key terms
|Flora and Fauna||While the plants specific to a particular region are called flora, their wildlife counterpart is called fauna.
|Endemic Species||Species that are confined to one particular area, and cannot be found elsewhere; animals may be endemic to a specific region, a state, or even a country. When the habitat of an endemic species is destroyed, their entire existence may be questioned.
|Endangered Species||Animals whose numbers are slowly but steadily declining, and may one day become extinct; animals which are smaller in size are more susceptible to extinction than their larger counterparts
|Ecosystem||A system which consists of plants, wildlife and micro-organisms living in a region along with non-living things, such as air, water, or soil. In order for an ecosystem to function successfully, each member of the ecosystem is equally important.
|Red Data Book||Individual books that consist of data and a list of all endangered species on the planet
|Migration||The seasonal movement of animals or birds from one region to another, mainly seeking a better climate for breeding and survival
Steps towards conservation
- About 17 full grown trees are needed to make one tonne of paper, and paper manufacturing releases harmful toxins into the environment. Saving, reusing, and recycling paper can be instrumental in conserving plant life.
- Reforestation or the planting of trees where there is a decline is also important. Planting trees of the same species, and in the same number as those which are cut will help maintain balance in the forest.
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