Natural disasters are a part of life on our little blue marble, but climate change has started making them more intense and more deadly in recent years. Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall on August 25th, 2017 as a Category 4 hurricane, caused 39 deaths and millions of dollars in damage. The waters of the Gulf of Mexico where Harvey formed are warmer than they used to be, so hurricanes are getting larger and stronger than ever. We pay a lot of attention to the effect that these disasters have on human life, but how do they affect wildlife?
Back in the 1800s, the Pripyat River basin was teeming with wildlife, a natural wetland and forest habitat stretching between the border of Ukraine and Belarus.
A century later, most of that natural habitat disappeared. The Industrial Revolution brought along deforestation, a problem devastating animal habitats across the globe. Large swaths of trees are cut down at a time, instantly destroying the homes of hundreds of species. Pripyat was no different. Trees were cut down and replaced with pasture. Lumber was sold and industry began to develop.
In total, humans have nearly halved the number of trees on the planet. But efforts were made to restore the Pripyat region, bringing back new life. And in 1977, construction of a power plant called Chernobyl began. Six years later, four nuclear reactors were complete and plans for an additional two reactors were in the works. The year was 1986 and things were looking up for the region of Pripyat.
Then on April 26 at 1:23 in the morning, everything changed.
The world consists of various ecosystems where native species to the area thrive. However, the only thing constant in the world is change. The science of evolution tells us that all organisms grow and adapt to different environments — most of these changes are for the good, but others can cause damage.
One such negative adaptation involves the introduction of aquatic invasive species into ecosystems where they compete with and eventually drive native species to extinction. As humans are responsible for the majority of the movement of these species, it is incumbent upon us to find solutions which protect all water-bound life for future generations.
Scientists already know that the Galápagos Islands are home to an impressive amount of biodiversity. However, a new study shows they’re even more biodiverse than expected due to the number of non-native species migrating to the area. Scientists are concerned because they don’t yet know how these so-called alien species will impact the ones native to the Galápagos Islands.
The Galapágos Islands famously aided much of Charles Darwin’s research, and scientists are still looking into why the species diversity occurred. Recent conclusions indicate that although researchers thought only five non-native marine invertebrate species were living there, there are at least 53.
Do you think you could name 200 species, or 2000 if you could include plants? When looking at plant and animal extinction statistics, research has found 200 to 2000 extinctions occur every year.
It’s important to frame the crisis in this context because numbers can only say so much. Statistics provide a picture of the problem, but that picture is incomplete. It’s difficult, if not impossible to imagine 2000 of anything, let alone 2000 individual species disappearing from the face of the planet in a single year.
These numbers are an attempt to quantify the damage humans have caused through deforestation, poaching and other harmful practices. As the effects of climate change continue to disturb the environment and disrupt ecosystems, the rate of extinction will increase, and the issue will only intensify.
With this in mind, how many species will we lose in our lifetime? What’s the extent of the damage, and more than that, what are possible solutions to the problem? These critical questions have fascinating answers, and we’ll walk you through everything you should know moving into 2019 and the next decade.
Wildlife conservation isn’t a polarizing issue. Most would agree it’s necessary, and few would argue against it. As deforestation and other harmful practices continue to destroy and disturb ecosystems, it’s difficult to believe anyone would think we shouldn’t make an effort to preserve endangered species.
That said, the subject of wildlife conservation isn’t so simple. Even the best intentions can go wrong when conservationists don’t understand the subtleties of natural habitats. Specifically, conservationists cause more harm than good when they overlook animal social lives, a fundamental part of their existence.
When you hear “animal social lives,” you might imagine some rudimentary imitation of what you’re familiar with. After all, non-human animals don’t appear have spoken languages, complex tools or any system in place that allows them to lead the same kind of social lives we do. While this is true, it doesn’t capture the full picture.
China is known as the largest illegal ivory market in the world. Up until recently, it was also the biggest legal ivory market. Effective Dec. 31, 2017, China banned all trade in ivory and ivory products.
The ban had immediate impacts on China’s legal ivory trade. In September 2018, wildlife monitoring organization TRAFFIC visited 71 shops in China that had previously sold ivory. They found 17 of the stores had closed, and 54 had no ivory products in stock. At the end of 2017, all of China’s ivory-carving factories shut down.
TRAFFIC also visited 157 markets and found ivory products in 345 unauthorized shops. Compared to a similar survey conducted the year before, the number of stores illegally selling ivory decreased by 30 percent, while the number of ivory products on display increased by 22 percent.
With Instagram, Facebook and Twitter generating plenty of information about the earth, efforts to protect creatures has changed. Now that you can scroll on your smartphone to learn about the environment and endangered animals, it should be easy to support wildlife. But the connection between social media and wildlife conservation isn’t simple.
Photos, comments and videos can lead citizens to form opinions about the rescue methods, protection of public lands and habitat policies. With a range of people using these platforms, both positive and negative effects come out of social media and wildlife conservation.
So, is the overall impact of social media leaving wildlife better off or not? Mainly, social media is helping promote conservation. Check out these ways social media and wildlife conservation intersect.
Wildlife is facing immense threats, and 2019 will be no different. While conservation saw some successes in 2018, it was still a rough year for wildlife. Species disappeared and regulatory changes, climate change and other threats continued to worsen the situation. Meanwhile, conservationists continued to work tirelessly.
In 2019, this trend will continue. New threats will emerge and many existing ones will continue to worsen. While these things will threaten wildlife, it will also spur more people into action to help protect the planet’s incredible biodiversity.
So, what can we expect in 2019 in relation to wildlife conservation? While the world is always full of surprises, here’s a look at the year ahead.
It can be hard for anyone, child or adult, to believe in conservation and climate change when those in power are continually denying its existence. Thankfully, plenty of amazing movies and documentaries can introduce everyone to the idea of conservation, regardless of their age.
Here is a list of six of the best conservation movies you can watch with the entire family.