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Conservation biologist | Wikipedia audio article

September 12, 2019


Conservation biology is the management of
nature and of Earth’s biodiversity with the aim of protecting species, their habitats,
and ecosystems from excessive rates of extinction and the erosion of biotic interactions. It is an interdisciplinary subject drawing
on natural and social sciences, and the practice of natural resource management.The conservation
ethic is based on the findings of conservation biology.==Origins==
The term conservation biology and its conception as a new field originated with the convening
of “The First International Conference on Research in Conservation Biology” held at
the University of California, San Diego in La Jolla, California in 1978 led by American
biologists Bruce A. Wilcox and Michael E. Soulé with a group of leading university
and zoo researchers and conservationists including Kurt Benirschke, Sir Otto Frankel, Thomas
Lovejoy, and Jared Diamond. The meeting was prompted by the concern over
tropical deforestation, disappearing species, eroding genetic diversity within species. The conference and proceedings that resulted
sought to initiate the bridging of a gap between theory in ecology and evolutionary genetics
on the one hand and conservation policy and practice on the other. Conservation biology and the concept of biological
diversity (biodiversity) emerged together, helping crystallize the modern era of conservation
science and policy. The inherent multidisciplinary basis for conservation
biology has led to new subdisciplines including conservation social science, conservation
behavior and conservation physiology. It stimulated further development of conservation
genetics which Otto Frankel had originated first but is now often considered a subdiscipline
as well.==Description==
The rapid decline of established biological systems around the world means that conservation
biology is often referred to as a “Discipline with a deadline”. Conservation biology is tied closely to ecology
in researching the population ecology (dispersal, migration, demographics, effective population
size, inbreeding depression, and minimum population viability) of rare or endangered species. Conservation biology is concerned with phenomena
that affect the maintenance, loss, and restoration of biodiversity and the science of sustaining
evolutionary processes that engender genetic, population, species, and ecosystem diversity. The concern stems from estimates suggesting
that up to 50% of all species on the planet will disappear within the next 50 years, which
has contributed to poverty, starvation, and will reset the course of evolution on this
planet.Conservation biologists research and educate on the trends and process of biodiversity
loss, species extinctions, and the negative effect these are having on our capabilities
to sustain the well-being of human society. Conservation biologists work in the field
and office, in government, universities, non-profit organizations and industry. The topics of their research are diverse,
because this is an interdisciplinary network with professional alliances in the biological
as well as social sciences. Those dedicated to the cause and profession
advocate for a global response to the current biodiversity crisis based on morals, ethics,
and scientific reason. Organizations and citizens are responding
to the biodiversity crisis through conservation action plans that direct research, monitoring,
and education programs that engage concerns at local through global scales.==History=====
Natural resource conservation===Conscious efforts to conserve and protect
global biodiversity are a recent phenomenon. Natural resource conservation, however, has
a history that extends prior to the age of conservation. Resource ethics grew out of necessity through
direct relations with nature. Regulation or communal restraint became necessary
to prevent selfish motives from taking more than could be locally sustained, therefore
compromising the long-term supply for the rest of the community. This social dilemma with respect to natural
resource management is often called the “Tragedy of the Commons”.From this principle, conservation
biologists can trace communal resource based ethics throughout cultures as a solution to
communal resource conflict. For example, the Alaskan Tlingit peoples and
the Haida of the Pacific Northwest had resource boundaries, rules, and restrictions among
clans with respect to the fishing of sockeye salmon. These rules were guided by clan elders who
knew lifelong details of each river and stream they managed. There are numerous examples in history where
cultures have followed rules, rituals, and organized practice with respect to communal
natural resource management.The Mauryan emperor Ashoka around 250 B.C. issued edicts restricting
the slaughter of animals and certain kinds of birds, as well as opened veterinary clinics. Conservation ethics are also found in early
religious and philosophical writings. There are examples in the Tao, Shinto, Hindu,
Islamic and Buddhist traditions. In Greek philosophy, Plato lamented about
pasture land degradation: “What is left now is, so to say, the skeleton of a body wasted
by disease; the rich, soft soil has been carried off and only the bare framework of the district
left.” In the bible, through Moses, God commanded
to let the land rest from cultivation every seventh year. Before the 18th century, however, much of
European culture considered it a pagan view to admire nature. Wilderness was denigrated while agricultural
development was praised. However, as early as AD 680 a wildlife sanctuary
was founded on the Farne Islands by St Cuthbert in response to his religious beliefs.===Early naturalists===Natural history was a major preoccupation
in the 18th century, with grand expeditions and the opening of popular public displays
in Europe and North America. By 1900 there were 150 natural history museums
in Germany, 250 in Great Britain, 250 in the United States, and 300 in France. Preservationist or conservationist sentiments
are a development of the late 18th to early 20th centuries. Before Charles Darwin set sail on HMS Beagle,
most people in the world, including Darwin, believed in special creation and that all
species were unchanged. George-Louis Leclerc was one of the first
naturalist that questioned this belief. He proposed in his 44 volume natural history
book that species evolve due to environmental influences. Erasmus Darwin was also a naturalist who also
suggested that species evolved. Erasmus Darwin noted that some species have
vestigial structures which are anatomical structures that have no apparent function
in the species currently but would have been useful for the species’ ancestors. The thinking of these early 18th century naturalist
helped to change the mindset and thinking of the early 19th century naturalist. By the early 19th century biogeography was
ignited through the efforts of Alexander von Humboldt, Charles Lyell and Charles Darwin. The 19th-century fascination with natural
history engendered a fervor to be the first to collect rare specimens with the goal of
doing so before they became extinct by other such collectors. Although the work of many 18th and 19th century
naturalists were to inspire nature enthusiasts and conservation organizations, their writings,
by modern standards, showed insensitivity towards conservation as they would kill hundreds
of specimens for their collections.===Conservation movement===The modern roots of conservation biology can
be found in the late 18th-century Enlightenment period particularly in England and Scotland. A number of thinkers, among them notably Lord
Monboddo, described the importance of “preserving nature”; much of this early emphasis had its
origins in Christian theology. Scientific conservation principles were first
practically applied to the forests of British India. The conservation ethic that began to evolve
included three core principles: that human activity damaged the environment, that there
was a civic duty to maintain the environment for future generations, and that scientific,
empirically based methods should be applied to ensure this duty was carried out. Sir James Ranald Martin was prominent in promoting
this ideology, publishing many medico-topographical reports that demonstrated the scale of damage
wrought through large-scale deforestation and desiccation, and lobbying extensively
for the institutionalization of forest conservation activities in British India through the establishment
of Forest Departments.The Madras Board of Revenue started local conservation efforts
in 1842, headed by Alexander Gibson, a professional botanist who systematically adopted a forest
conservation program based on scientific principles. This was the first case of state conservation
management of forests in the world. Governor-General Lord Dalhousie introduced
the first permanent and large-scale forest conservation program in the world in 1855,
a model that soon spread to other colonies, as well the United States, where Yellowstone
National Park was opened in 1872 as the world’s first national park.The term conservation
came into widespread use in the late 19th century and referred to the management, mainly
for economic reasons, of such natural resources as timber, fish, game, topsoil, pastureland,
and minerals. In addition it referred to the preservation
of forests (forestry), wildlife (wildlife refuge), parkland, wilderness, and watersheds. This period also saw the passage of the first
conservation legislation and the establishment of the first nature conservation societies. The Sea Birds Preservation Act of 1869 was
passed in Britain as the first nature protection law in the world after extensive lobbying
from the Association for the Protection of Seabirds and the respected ornithologist Alfred
Newton. Newton was also instrumental in the passage
of the first Game laws from 1872, which protected animals during their breeding season so as
to prevent the stock from being brought close to extinction.One of the first conservation
societies was the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, founded in 1889 in Manchester as
a protest group campaigning against the use of great crested grebe and kittiwake skins
and feathers in fur clothing. Originally known as “the Plumage League”,
the group gained popularity and eventually amalgamated with the Fur and Feather League
in Croydon, and formed the RSPB. The National Trust formed in 1895 with the
manifesto to “…promote the permanent preservation, for the benefit of the nation, of lands, …to
preserve (so far practicable) their natural aspect.” In the United States, the Forest Reserve Act
of 1891 gave the President power to set aside forest reserves from the land in the public
domain. John Muir founded the Sierra Club in 1892,
and the New York Zoological Society was set up in 1895. A series of national forests and preserves
were established by Theodore Roosevelt from 1901 to 1909. The 1916 National Parks Act, included a ‘use
without impairment’ clause, sought by John Muir, which eventually resulted in the removal
of a proposal to build a dam in Dinosaur National Monument in 1959. In the 20th century, Canadian civil servants,
including Charles Gordon Hewitt and James Harkin spearheaded the movement toward wildlife
conservation.===Global conservation efforts===
In the mid-20th century, efforts arose to target individual species for conservation,
notably efforts in big cat conservation in South America led by the New York Zoological
Society. In the early 20th century the New York Zoological
Society was instrumental in developing concepts of establishing preserves for particular species
and conducting the necessary conservation studies to determine the suitability of locations
that are most appropriate as conservation priorities; the work of Henry Fairfield Osborn
Jr., Carl E. Akeley, Archie Carr and his son Archie Carr III is notable in this era. Akeley for example, having led expeditions
to the Virunga Mountains and observed the mountain gorilla in the wild, became convinced
that the species and the area were conservation priorities. He was instrumental in persuading Albert I
of Belgium to act in defense of the mountain gorilla and establish Albert National Park
(since renamed Virunga National Park) in what is now Democratic Republic of Congo.By the
1970s, led primarily by work in the United States under the Endangered Species Act along
with the Species at Risk Act (SARA) of Canada, Biodiversity Action Plans developed in Australia,
Sweden, the United Kingdom, hundreds of species specific protection plans ensued. Notably the United Nations acted to conserve
sites of outstanding cultural or natural importance to the common heritage of mankind. The programme was adopted by the General Conference
of UNESCO in 1972. As of 2006, a total of 830 sites are listed:
644 cultural, 162 natural. The first country to pursue aggressive biological
conservation through national legislation was the United States, which passed back to
back legislation in the Endangered Species Act (1966) and National Environmental Policy
Act (1970), which together injected major funding and protection measures to large-scale
habitat protection and threatened species research. Other conservation developments, however,
have taken hold throughout the world. India, for example, passed the Wildlife Protection
Act of 1972.In 1980, a significant development was the emergence of the urban conservation
movement. A local organization was established in Birmingham,
UK, a development followed in rapid succession in cities across the UK, then overseas. Although perceived as a grassroots movement,
its early development was driven by academic research into urban wildlife. Initially perceived as radical, the movement’s
view of conservation being inextricably linked with other human activity has now become mainstream
in conservation thought. Considerable research effort is now directed
at urban conservation biology. The Society for Conservation Biology originated
in 1985.By 1992, most of the countries of the world had become committed to the principles
of conservation of biological diversity with the Convention on Biological Diversity; subsequently
many countries began programmes of Biodiversity Action Plans to identify and conserve threatened
species within their borders, as well as protect associated habitats. The late 1990s saw increasing professionalism
in the sector, with the maturing of organisations such as the Institute of Ecology and Environmental
Management and the Society for the Environment. Since 2000, the concept of landscape scale
conservation has risen to prominence, with less emphasis being given to single-species
or even single-habitat focused actions. Instead an ecosystem approach is advocated
by most mainstream conservationists, although concerns have been expressed by those working
to protect some high-profile species. Ecology has clarified the workings of the
biosphere; i.e., the complex interrelationships among humans, other species, and the physical
environment. The burgeoning human population and associated
agriculture, industry, and the ensuing pollution, have demonstrated how easily ecological relationships
can be disrupted.==Concepts and foundations=====
Measuring extinction rates===Extinction rates are measured in a variety
of ways. Conservation biologists measure and apply
statistical measures of fossil records, rates of habitat loss, and a multitude of other
variables such as loss of biodiversity as a function of the rate of habitat loss and
site occupancy to obtain such estimates. The Theory of Island Biogeography is possibly
the most significant contribution toward the scientific understanding of both the process
and how to measure the rate of species extinction. The current background extinction rate is
estimated to be one species every few years.The measure of ongoing species loss is made more
complex by the fact that most of the Earth’s species have not been described or evaluated. Estimates vary greatly on how many species
actually exist (estimated range: 3,600,000-111,700,000) to how many have received a species binomial
(estimated range: 1.5-8 million). Less than 1% of all species that have been
described beyond simply noting its existence. From these figures, the IUCN reports that
23% of vertebrates, 5% of invertebrates and 70% of plants that have been evaluated are
designated as endangered or threatened. Better knowledge is being constructed by The
Plant List for actual numbers of species.===Systematic conservation planning===
Systematic conservation planning is an effective way to seek and identify efficient and effective
types of reserve design to capture or sustain the highest priority biodiversity values and
to work with communities in support of local ecosystems. Margules and Pressey identify six interlinked
stages in the systematic planning approach: Compile data on the biodiversity of the planning
region Identify conservation goals for the planning
region Review existing conservation areas
Select additional conservation areas Implement conservation actions
Maintain the required values of conservation areasConservation biologists regularly prepare
detailed conservation plans for grant proposals or to effectively coordinate their plan of
action and to identify best management practices (e.g.). Systematic strategies generally employ the
services of Geographic Information Systems to assist in the decision making process.===Conservation physiology: a mechanistic
approach to conservation===Conservation physiology was defined by Steven
J. Cooke and colleagues as: ‘An integrative scientific discipline applying physiological
concepts, tools, and knowledge to characterizing biological diversity and its ecological implications;
understanding and predicting how organisms, populations, and ecosystems respond to environmental
change and stressors; and solving conservation problems across the broad range of taxa (i.e.
including microbes, plants, and animals). Physiology is considered in the broadest possible
terms to include functional and mechanistic responses at all scales, and conservation
includes the development and refinement of strategies to rebuild populations, restore
ecosystems, inform conservation policy, generate decision-support tools, and manage natural
resources.’ Conservation physiology is particularly relevant
to practitioners in that it has the potential to generate cause-and-effect relationships
and reveal the factors that contribute to population declines.===Conservation biology as a profession===
The Society for Conservation Biology is a global community of conservation professionals
dedicated to advancing the science and practice of conserving biodiversity. Conservation biology as a discipline reaches
beyond biology, into subjects such as philosophy, law, economics, humanities, arts, anthropology,
and education. Within biology, conservation genetics and
evolution are immense fields unto themselves, but these disciplines are of prime importance
to the practice and profession of conservation biology. Is conservation biology an objective science
when biologists advocate for an inherent value in nature? Do conservationists introduce bias when they
support policies using qualitative description, such as habitat degradation, or healthy ecosystems? As all scientists hold values, so do conservation
biologists. Conservation biologists advocate for reasoned
and sensible management of natural resources and do so with a disclosed combination of
science, reason, logic, and values in their conservation management plans. This sort of advocacy is similar to the medical
profession advocating for healthy lifestyle options, both are beneficial to human well-being
yet remain scientific in their approach. There is a movement in conservation biology
suggesting a new form of leadership is needed to mobilize conservation biology into a more
effective discipline that is able to communicate the full scope of the problem to society at
large. The movement proposes an adaptive leadership
approach that parallels an adaptive management approach. The concept is based on a new philosophy or
leadership theory steering away from historical notions of power, authority, and dominance. Adaptive conservation leadership is reflective
and more equitable as it applies to any member of society who can mobilize others toward
meaningful change using communication techniques that are inspiring, purposeful, and collegial. Adaptive conservation leadership and mentoring
programs are being implemented by conservation biologists through organizations such as the
Aldo Leopold Leadership Program.===Approaches===
Conservation may be classified as either in-situ conservation, which is protecting an endangered
species in its natural habitat, or ex-situ conservation, which occurs outside the natural
habitat. In-situ conservation involves protecting or
restoring the habitat. Ex-situ conservation, on the other hand, involves
protection outside of an organism’s natural habitat, such as on reservations or in gene
banks, in circumstances where viable populations may not be present in the natural habitat. Also, non-interference may be used, which
is termed a preservationist method. Preservationists advocate for giving areas
of nature and species a protected existence that halts interference from the humans. In this regard, conservationists differ from
preservationists in the social dimension, as conservation biology engages society and
seeks equitable solutions for both society and ecosystems. Some preservationists emphasize the potential
of biodiversity in a world without humans.===Ethics and values===Conservation biologists are interdisciplinary
researchers that practice ethics in the biological and social sciences. Chan states that conservationists must advocate
for biodiversity and can do so in a scientifically ethical manner by not promoting simultaneous
advocacy against other competing values. A conservationist may be inspired by the resource
conservation ethic, which seeks to identify what measures will deliver “the greatest good
for the greatest number of people for the longest time.” In contrast, some conservation biologists
argue that nature has an intrinsic value that is independent of anthropocentric usefulness
or utilitarianism. Intrinsic value advocates that a gene, or
species, be valued because they have a utility for the ecosystems they sustain. Aldo Leopold was a classical thinker and writer
on such conservation ethics whose philosophy, ethics and writings are still valued and revisited
by modern conservation biologists.===Conservation priorities===The International Union for the Conservation
of Nature (IUCN) has organized a global assortment of scientists and research stations across
the planet to monitor the changing state of nature in an effort to tackle the extinction
crisis. The IUCN provides annual updates on the status
of species conservation through its Red List. The IUCN Red List serves as an international
conservation tool to identify those species most in need of conservation attention and
by providing a global index on the status of biodiversity. More than the dramatic rates of species loss,
however, conservation scientists note that the sixth mass extinction is a biodiversity
crisis requiring far more action than a priority focus on rare, endemic or endangered species. Concerns for biodiversity loss covers a broader
conservation mandate that looks at ecological processes, such as migration, and a holistic
examination of biodiversity at levels beyond the species, including genetic, population
and ecosystem diversity. Extensive, systematic, and rapid rates of
biodiversity loss threatens the sustained well-being of humanity by limiting supply
of ecosystem services that are otherwise regenerated by the complex and evolving holistic network
of genetic and ecosystem diversity. While the conservation status of species is
employed extensively in conservation management, some scientists highlight that it is the common
species that are the primary source of exploitation and habitat alteration by humanity. Moreover, common species are often undervalued
despite their role as the primary source of ecosystem services.While most in the community
of conservation science “stress the importance” of sustaining biodiversity, there is debate
on how to prioritize genes, species, or ecosystems, which are all components of biodiversity (e.g.
Bowen, 1999). While the predominant approach to date has
been to focus efforts on endangered species by conserving biodiversity hotspots, some
scientists (e.g) and conservation organizations, such as the Nature Conservancy, argue that
it is more cost-effective, logical, and socially relevant to invest in biodiversity coldspots. The costs of discovering, naming, and mapping
out the distribution of every species, they argue, is an ill-advised conservation venture. They reason it is better to understand the
significance of the ecological roles of species.Biodiversity hotspots and coldspots are a way of recognizing
that the spatial concentration of genes, species, and ecosystems is not uniformly distributed
on the Earth’s surface. For example, “[…] 44% of all species of
vascular plants and 35% of all species in four vertebrate groups are confined to 25
hotspots comprising only 1.4% of the land surface of the Earth.”Those arguing in favor
of setting priorities for coldspots point out that there are other measures to consider
beyond biodiversity. They point out that emphasizing hotspots downplays
the importance of the social and ecological connections to vast areas of the Earth’s ecosystems
where biomass, not biodiversity, reigns supreme. It is estimated that 36% of the Earth’s surface,
encompassing 38.9% of the worlds vertebrates, lacks the endemic species to qualify as biodiversity
hotspot. Moreover, measures show that maximizing protections
for biodiversity does not capture ecosystem services any better than targeting randomly
chosen regions. Population level biodiversity (mostly in coldspots)
are disappearing at a rate that is ten times that at the species level. The level of importance in addressing biomass
versus endemism as a concern for conservation biology is highlighted in literature measuring
the level of threat to global ecosystem carbon stocks that do not necessarily reside in areas
of endemism. A hotspot priority approach would not invest
so heavily in places such as steppes, the Serengeti, the Arctic, or taiga. These areas contribute a great abundance of
population (not species) level biodiversity and ecosystem services, including cultural
value and planetary nutrient cycling. Those in favor of the hotspot approach point
out that species are irreplaceable components of the global ecosystem, they are concentrated
in places that are most threatened, and should therefore receive maximal strategic protections. The IUCN Red List categories, which appear
on Wikipedia species articles, is an example of the hotspot conservation approach in action;
species that are not rare or endemic are listed the least concern and their Wikipedia articles
tend to be ranked low on the importance scale. This is a hotspot approach because the priority
is set to target species level concerns over population level or biomass. Species richness and genetic biodiversity
contributes to and engenders ecosystem stability, ecosystem processes, evolutionary adaptability,
and biomass. Both sides agree, however, that conserving
biodiversity is necessary to reduce the extinction rate and identify an inherent value in nature;
the debate hinges on how to prioritize limited conservation resources in the most cost-effective
way.===Economic values and natural capital===Conservation biologists have started to collaborate
with leading global economists to determine how to measure the wealth and services of
nature and to make these values apparent in global market transactions. This system of accounting is called natural
capital and would, for example, register the value of an ecosystem before it is cleared
to make way for development. The WWF publishes its Living Planet Report
and provides a global index of biodiversity by monitoring approximately 5,000 populations
in 1,686 species of vertebrate (mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians) and report
on the trends in much the same way that the stock market is tracked.This method of measuring
the global economic benefit of nature has been endorsed by the G8+5 leaders and the
European Commission. Nature sustains many ecosystem services that
benefit humanity. Many of the Earth’s ecosystem services are
public goods without a market and therefore no price or value. When the stock market registers a financial
crisis, traders on Wall Street are not in the business of trading stocks for much of
the planet’s living natural capital stored in ecosystems. There is no natural stock market with investment
portfolios into sea horses, amphibians, insects, and other creatures that provide a sustainable
supply of ecosystem services that are valuable to society. The ecological footprint of society has exceeded
the bio-regenerative capacity limits of the planet’s ecosystems by about 30 percent, which
is the same percentage of vertebrate populations that have registered decline from 1970 through
2005. The inherent natural economy plays an essential
role in sustaining humanity, including the regulation of global atmospheric chemistry,
pollinating crops, pest control, cycling soil nutrients, purifying our water supply, supplying
medicines and health benefits, and unquantifiable quality of life improvements. There is a relationship, a correlation, between
markets and natural capital, and social income inequity and biodiversity loss. This means that there are greater rates of
biodiversity loss in places where the inequity of wealth is greatestAlthough a direct market
comparison of natural capital is likely insufficient in terms of human value, one measure of ecosystem
services suggests the contribution amounts to trillions of dollars yearly. For example, one segment of North American
forests has been assigned an annual value of 250 billion dollars; as another example,
honey-bee pollination is estimated to provide between 10 and 18 billion dollars of value
yearly. The value of ecosystem services on one New
Zealand island has been imputed to be as great as the GDP of that region. This planetary wealth is being lost at an
incredible rate as the demands of human society is exceeding the bio-regenerative capacity
of the Earth. While biodiversity and ecosystems are resilient,
the danger of losing them is that humans cannot recreate many ecosystem functions through
technological innovation.===Strategic species concepts=======
Keystone species====Some species, called a keystone species form
a central supporting hub unique to their ecosystem. The loss of such a species results in a collapse
in ecosystem function, as well as the loss of coexisting species. Keystone species are usually predators due
to their ability to control the population of prey in their ecosystem. The importance of a keystone species was shown
by the extinction of the Steller’s sea cow (Hydrodamalis gigas) through its interaction
with sea otters, sea urchins, and kelp. Kelp beds grow and form nurseries in shallow
waters to shelter creatures that support the food chain. Sea urchins feed on kelp, while sea otters
feed on sea urchins. With the rapid decline of sea otters due to
overhunting, sea urchin populations grazed unrestricted on the kelp beds and the ecosystem
collapsed. Left unchecked, the urchins destroyed the
shallow water kelp communities that supported the Steller’s sea cow’s diet and hastened
their demise. The sea otter was thought to be a keystone
species because the coexistence of many ecological associates in the kelp beds relied upon otters
for their survival. However this was later questioned by Turvey
and Risley, who showed that hunting alone would have driven the Steller’s sea cow extinct.====Indicator species====An indicator species has a narrow set of ecological
requirements, therefore they become useful targets for observing the health of an ecosystem. Some animals, such as amphibians with their
semi-permeable skin and linkages to wetlands, have an acute sensitivity to environmental
harm and thus may serve as a miner’s canary. Indicator species are monitored in an effort
to capture environmental degradation through pollution or some other link to proximate
human activities. Monitoring an indicator species is a measure
to determine if there is a significant environmental impact that can serve to advise or modify
practice, such as through different forest silviculture treatments and management scenarios,
or to measure the degree of harm that a pesticide may impart on the health of an ecosystem. Government regulators, consultants, or NGOs
regularly monitor indicator species, however, there are limitations coupled with many practical
considerations that must be followed for the approach to be effective. It is generally recommended that multiple
indicators (genes, populations, species, communities, and landscape) be monitored for effective
conservation measurement that prevents harm to the complex, and often unpredictable, response
from ecosystem dynamics (Noss, 1997).====Umbrella and flagship species====An example of an umbrella species is the monarch
butterfly, because of its lengthy migrations and aesthetic value. The monarch migrates across North America,
covering multiple ecosystems and so requires a large area to exist. Any protections afforded to the monarch butterfly
will at the same time umbrella many other species and habitats. An umbrella species is often used as flagship
species, which are species, such as the giant panda, the blue whale, the tiger, the mountain
gorilla and the monarch butterfly, that capture the public’s attention and attract support
for conservation measures. Paradoxically, however, conservation bias
towards flagship species sometimes threatens other species of chief concern.==Context and trends==
Conservation biologists study trends and process from the paleontological past to the ecological
present as they gain an understanding of the context related to species extinction. It is generally accepted that there have been
five major global mass extinctions that register in Earth’s history. These include: the Ordovician (440 mya), Devonian
(370 mya), Permian–Triassic (245 mya), Triassic–Jurassic (200 mya), and Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction
event (66 mya) extinction spasms. Within the last 10,000 years, human influence
over the Earth’s ecosystems has been so extensive that scientists have difficulty estimating
the number of species lost; that is to say the rates of deforestation, reef destruction,
wetland draining and other human acts are proceeding much faster than human assessment
of species. The latest Living Planet Report by the World
Wide Fund for Nature estimates that we have exceeded the bio-regenerative capacity of
the planet, requiring 1.6 Earths to support the demands placed on our natural resources.===Holocene extinction===Conservation biologists are dealing with and
have published evidence from all corners of the planet indicating that humanity may be
causing the sixth and fastest planetary extinction event. It has been suggested that we are living in
an era of unprecedented numbers of species extinctions, also known as the Holocene extinction
event. The global extinction rate may be approximately
1,000 times higher than the natural background extinction rate. It is estimated that two-thirds of all mammal
genera and one-half of all mammal species weighing at least 44 kilograms (97 lb) have
gone extinct in the last 50,000 years. The Global Amphibian Assessment reports that
amphibians are declining on a global scale faster than any other vertebrate group, with
over 32% of all surviving species being threatened with extinction. The surviving populations are in continual
decline in 43% of those that are threatened. Since the mid-1980s the actual rates of extinction
have exceeded 211 times rates measured from the fossil record. However, “The current amphibian extinction
rate may range from 25,039 to 45,474 times the background extinction rate for amphibians.” The global extinction trend occurs in every
major vertebrate group that is being monitored. For example, 23% of all mammals and 12% of
all birds are Red Listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), meaning
they too are threatened with extinction. Even though extinction is natural, the decline
in species is happening at such an incredible rate that evolution can simply not match,
therefore, leading to the greatest continual mass extinction on Earth. Humans have dominated the planet and our high
consumption of resources, along with the pollution generated is affecting the environments in
which other species live. There are a wide variety of species that humans
are working to protect such as the Hawaiian Crow and the Whooping Crane of Texas. People can also take action on preserving
species by advocating and voting for global and national policies that improve climate,
under the concepts of climate mitigation and climate restoration. The Earth’s oceans demand particular attention
as climate change continues to alter pH levels, making it uninhabitable for organisms with
shells which dissolve as a result.===Status of oceans and reefs===Global assessments of coral reefs of the world
continue to report drastic and rapid rates of decline. By 2000, 27% of the world’s coral reef ecosystems
had effectively collapsed. The largest period of decline occurred in
a dramatic “bleaching” event in 1998, where approximately 16% of all the coral reefs in
the world disappeared in less than a year. Coral bleaching is caused by a mixture of
environmental stresses, including increases in ocean temperatures and acidity, causing
both the release of symbiotic algae and death of corals. Decline and extinction risk in coral reef
biodiversity has risen dramatically in the past ten years. The loss of coral reefs, which are predicted
to go extinct in the next century, threatens the balance of global biodiversity, will have
huge economic impacts, and endangers food security for hundreds of millions of people. Conservation biology plays an important role
in international agreements covering the world’s oceans (and other issues pertaining to biodiversity). The oceans are threatened by acidification
due to an increase in CO2 levels. This is a most serious threat to societies
relying heavily upon oceanic natural resources. A concern is that the majority of all marine
species will not be able to evolve or acclimate in response to the changes in the ocean chemistry.The
prospects of averting mass extinction seems unlikely when “[…] 90% of all of the large
(average approximately ≥50 kg), open ocean tuna, billfishes, and sharks in the ocean”
are reportedly gone. Given the scientific review of current trends,
the ocean is predicted to have few surviving multi-cellular organisms with only microbes
left to dominate marine ecosystems.===Groups other than vertebrates===
Serious concerns also being raised about taxonomic groups that do not receive the same degree
of social attention or attract funds as the vertebrates. These include fungal (including lichen-forming
species), invertebrate (particularly insect) and plant communities where the vast majority
of biodiversity is represented. Conservation of fungi and conservation of
insects, in particular, are both of pivotal importance for conservation biology. As mycorrhizal symbionts, and as decomposers
and recyclers, fungi are essential for sustainability of forests. The value of insects in the biosphere is enormous
because they outnumber all other living groups in measure of species richness. The greatest bulk of biomass on land is found
in plants, which is sustained by insect relations. This great ecological value of insects is
countered by a society that often reacts negatively toward these aesthetically ‘unpleasant’ creatures.One
area of concern in the insect world that has caught the public eye is the mysterious case
of missing honey bees (Apis mellifera). Honey bees provide an indispensable ecological
services through their acts of pollination supporting a huge variety of agriculture crops. The use of honey and wax have become vastly
used throughout the world. The sudden disappearance of bees leaving empty
hives or colony collapse disorder (CCD) is not uncommon. However, in 16-month period from 2006 through
2007, 29% of 577 beekeepers across the United States reported CCD losses in up to 76% of
their colonies. This sudden demographic loss in bee numbers
is placing a strain on the agricultural sector. The cause behind the massive declines is puzzling
scientists. Pests, pesticides, and global warming are
all being considered as possible causes.Another highlight that links conservation biology
to insects, forests, and climate change is the mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae)
epidemic of British Columbia, Canada, which has infested 470,000 km2 (180,000 sq mi) of
forested land since 1999. An action plan has been prepared by the Government
of British Columbia to address this problem. This impact [pine beetle epidemic] converted
the forest from a small net carbon sink to a large net carbon source both during and
immediately after the outbreak. In the worst year, the impacts resulting from
the beetle outbreak in British Columbia were equivalent to 75% of the average annual direct
forest fire emissions from all of Canada during 1959–1999.===Conservation biology of parasites===A large proportion of parasite species are
threatened by extinction. A few of them are being eradicated as pests
of humans or domestic animals, however, most of them are harmless. Threats include the decline or fragmentation
of host populations, or the extinction of host species.===Threats to biodiversity===Today, many threats to Biodiversity exist. An acronym that can be used to express the
top threats of present-day H.I.P.P.O stands for Habitat Loss, Invasive Species, Pollution,
Human Population, and Overharvesting. The primary threats to biodiversity are habitat
destruction (such as deforestation, agricultural expansion, urban development), and overexploitation
(such as wildlife trade). Habitat fragmentation also poses challenges,
because the global network of protected areas only covers 11.5% of the Earth’s surface. A significant consequence of fragmentation
and lack of linked protected areas is the reduction of animal migration on a global
scale. Considering that billions of tonnes of biomass
are responsible for nutrient cycling across the earth, the reduction of migration is a
serious matter for conservation biology. However, human activities need not necessarily
cause irreparable harm to the biosphere. With conservation management and planning
for biodiversity at all levels, from genes to ecosystems, there are examples where humans
mutually coexist in a sustainable way with nature. Even with the current threats to biodiversity
there are ways we can improve the current condition and start anew. Many of the threats to biodiversity, including
disease and climate change, are reaching inside borders of protected areas, leaving them ‘not-so
protected’ (e.g. Yellowstone National Park). Climate change, for example, is often cited
as a serious threat in this regard, because there is a feedback loop between species extinction
and the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Ecosystems store and cycle large amounts of
carbon which regulates global conditions. In present day, there have been major climate
shifts with temperature changes making survival of some species difficult. The effects of global warming add a catastrophic
threat toward a mass extinction of global biological diversity. Conservationists have claimed that not all
the species can be saved, and they have to decide which their efforts should be used
to protect. This concept is known as the Conservation
Triage. The extinction threat is estimated to range
from 15 to 37 percent of all species by 2050, or 50 percent of all species over the next
50 years. The current extinction rate is 100-100,000
times more rapid today than the last several billion years.==See also

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