The characteristics of a biodiverse ecosystem

Biodiversity is all the different kinds of life you’ll find in one area—the variety of animals, plants, fungi, and even microorganisms like bacteria that make up our natural world. Each of these species and organisms work together in ecosystems, like an intricate web, to maintain balance and support life. Biodiversity supports everything in nature that we need to survive: food, clean water, medicine, and shelter‘ – http://www.worldwildlife.org

Illegal deforestation and the consequences of global warming continue to destroy our planet, making biodiversity harder to find on Earth. The natural world is interconnected through millions of complex relationships which depend upon lots of different species. With less biodiverse landscapes these relationships become unstable, creating mass extinction events such as the one we are currently witnessing. However, rewilding projects strive to amend this issue by recreating natural and biodiverse landscapes to help stabilise what we have destroyed. Below I have outlined some of the characteristics that create a biodiverse landscape.

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Genetic diversity
This focuses on the variety of different genetic material within a species population. Greater genetic diversity means a population will have an easier time adapting to environmental issues. This characteristic, like others, being essential for endangered species and conservation efforts. Although, some argue that due to the unpredictable climate, species cannot adapt fast enough to keep up with the environmental pressures.

Ecosystem diversity This is essentially the different biomes across the planet which hold specific climates with species directly related to that climate. For example, a tropical climate might hold more insects and exotic plants compared to a colder climate such as Antarctica.


Species diversity
This is the variety of different species found in the area which is being researched or maintained. This can range from a species of bird to a certain species of tree. Establishing a balance is key to maintaining a biodiverse landscape, without this the ecosystem becomes unstable. For example, palm oil plantations in Indonesia are detrimental to the local ecosystem as they only consist of one species of tree which creates an imbalance of species diversity.

Functional diversity
Can be summarised as the biological and chemical processes needed for the survival of species and ecosystems. For example, the nitrogen cycle or the carbon cycle.

Some of the most biodiverse places on Earth will share all these characteristics to varying degree. Unfortunately, due to the state of the natural world caused by human behaviour over the last two centuries these rich natural environments are declining at unprecedented rates. Therefore, It is important we understand what is meant by biodiversity and why it is needed if we are to aim at repairing the natural world.

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The benefits of Marine Protected Areas

Marine protected areas or no-take zones are areas designated by government where no extractive activity is allowed by law. Such activity includes hunting, fishing, logging, mining and drilling. These zones do not just apply to areas of water on certain oceans but also to bodies of water on land such as certain lakes or rivers. Unfortunately, these zones are often rare as sporting or commercial fishing often make up a large percentage of industry for coastal areas. No-take zones are often used to protect the spawning grounds for different marine life to prevent population extinction and conserve wildlife.

Due to current issues such as overfishing, the surreal amount of plastic in the ocean and decaying coral reefs; the importance of these protected areas are becoming more necessary as we progress through the 21st century. Therefore, it is integral that the benefits of these zones are understood so that we can increase their use and help protect marine life from further degradation.

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One of the major benefits of marine protected areas is obviously the increase in population size for all marine life. With nature allowed to reinstate itself, a healthy ecosystem is allowed to reform for the most part. These pockets of sustainable life help repair an ocean which is currently being riddled with plastic and overfished.

Some may feel that this is a considerable loss for the fishing industry or unfair to isolated fishing villages with no other source of livelihood. However, this is not the case at all. In time, as the population sizes grow in these marine protected areas, spill over occurs where different populations of marine life start to migrate. Therefore, allowing the continued fishing of these different species in the non-protected areas whilst also allowing a sustainable area to thrive.

Currently, only 2.7% of the ocean globally is protected. Protected areas are sporadically increasing however, with areas such as the Great Barrier Reef to smaller areas consisting in and around the United Kingdom. An atlas overview of the different areas can be found here.

In summary, as information on climate change continues to spread, one thing that is certain is that we need to start living more cooperatively with nature because if we continue to progress destructively without thought for other life then this will ultimately be the very thing which stops our progression altogether.

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How drone technology can aid people and the environment

The past decade has witnessed an increased use of drone technology within different environmental roles. From farmers to scientists, drones are now being used to reduce farming costs or help survey plant and animal populations in remote areas. Below is a short list consisting of the different tasks drones can be used to help the environment and scientific research.

Reducing the cost of farming

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Drones can help with farming tasks such as planting, crop spraying, monitoring and irrigation. Increasing the success rates of planting crops whilst also decreasing planting costs. In terms of crop spraying, drones can reduce the amount amount of chemicals that work their way into ground water whilst completing the task up to five times faster than traditional machinery.

Renewable energy maintenance

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Inspecting tall structures such as wind turbines are another way drones help reduce risk and increase efficiency. Drones are now used to help with maintenance surveys and collect data on solar panel installation as well.

Ariel mapping

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Drones can also help map and collect data on areas which may be hard to reach for people on the ground. For example, environmental scientists are using drones to help survey mangroves, coral reefs and tropical rainforests. Making the task more efficient and also safer for the researchers involved.

Population surveillance

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Drone technology is also used to monitor wildlife movement, track population numbers and survey habitats. This method makes it a lot easier for ecologists to get a more accurate number of a certain species whilst reducing the risks of interfering with the animals themselves.

Disaster relief

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Finally, drones are also used to help prevent and assess natural disasters such as wildfires or typhoons. For example, In the Philippines during 2013 drones were used to assess the damage of a typhoon and help migrate people whilst finding the most ideal places for reconstruction.

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Sustainable ideas for homes

Making your home more sustainable can be achieved in various ways and can introduce some interesting and exciting new ideas. Below are some practical ideas as well as some experimental prototypes.

Sustainable heating systems: Switching from a gas boiler can improve the sustainability of your home and in some cases save you money. If you would like more detailed information then check the hyperlink above. Three alternative heating systems I found from the website were the electrical resistance heating, biomass boilers and ground source heat pumps.

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Sustainable water systems: Again, for more in-depth information follow the hyperlink in the title. One important point I found from the website was that two central branches for sustainable water involve introducing water-efficient devices and/or using alternative water sources to supply the household.

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Tesla solar panel roofing: This involves replacing typical roof tiles with roof tiles that are also solar panels. Efficient as they maximise the space a roof can capture solar energy whilst demonstrating a modern style.

Solar panel windows: A new innovative design that replaces normal windows with clear solar panel windows. This idea is still in its infancy and being tested but could prove to be a valuable investment. Given time for transition, with enough buildings installing solar windows this could alleviate our dependence on fossil fuels for energy usage.

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Growing your own food: This is a fun and relatively easy way to reduce your dependence on supermarkets, all it takes is a little patience and saves a little money. Plastic used by supermarkets creates a lot of waste and vegetables tend to always be packaged in plastic wrapping. If you’re growing food indoors, growing near a window seal is beneficial or using artificial lights. Regardless of where you decide to grow your plants, there are sustainable techniques to growing food that are universal. Different techniques involve composting green waste, saving seeds from vegetables and mulching. Growing your own food whether in little pots by your window or in big planters in the garden is a simple solution toward being more sustainable.

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Hopefully this post offers some insight on how to make your home more sustainable, given you an activity to do during lockdown or at the very least been an interesting read.

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News: Study finds 1500 excess deaths occur in the UK due to climate change

‘as a compilation of the impacts of ACC, we find that in the UK since 2000, at least 1500 excess deaths are directly attributable to human-induced climate change, while in Puerto Rico the increased intensity of Hurricane Maria alone led to the deaths of up to 3670 people’ – Clarke, B. Otto, F. Jones, R. (2021)

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This is alarming but not surprising given the increased amount of floods occurring in the UK. Furthermore, this demonstrates the direct and severe impact climate change can have on human life as well as the importance we must pay toward the environmental health of the planet.

This study should at least act as a wake up call for those still in denial and encourage those to think differently about the destructive lifestyles we have all taken for granted.

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Why bees are integral to our ecosystems and how to restore their population

Whilst forests play an important part in maintaining habitats and provide carbon traps, bees help pollinate the food we eat as well as the trees and plants that make up forests. We rely on them to maintain a biodiverse landscape as well as pollinate 90% of food worldwide.

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We are experiencing a global decline in bee diversity and population which is a serious issue as they pollinate a large percentage of our food supply. The reasons for this loss can vary depending of geographical location. Generally, bee population decline is due to the use of pesticides, such as the ones recently allowed in the UK. Climate change also disrupts bee populations from unstable plant diversity and unpredictable weather patterns. Finally, monoculture such as palm oil plantations presents a lack of biodiversity and commercial development both impact bee populations and their chances of survival.

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There are many different ways the bee population can be restored. For example, the National Wildlife Federation has comprised a list of six different solutions:

  • Plant natives – These are accustom to your local ecosystem, provide bees with sustainable food and do not require fertilizer.
  • New garden areas – Add new garden beds and encourage others to plant more flowers.
  • Organic – Refrain from using insecticides and chemicals in your garden.
  • Water – Place shallow pools of water in your garden for bees and other pollinators to thrive.
  • Nesting places – Create nesting places in your garden to increase the likelihood of the bee population increasing.
  • Responsibility – Raise awareness of the issue and inspire others to follow the same list of resolutions.

Others suggest planting bee friendly plants to adhere more to their needs or even going further and advocating for bee protection at different levels of government.

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‘Slowing down and even reversing habitat destruction and land-conversion to intensive uses, implementation of environmentally friendly schemes in agricultural and urban settings, and programs to flower our world are urgently required. Bees cannot wait’ – Zattara, E. Aizen, M. (2021)

No matter what we decide to do in resolving this growing issue, it is undoubtedly vital that bees and other pollinators populations increase otherwise our food security and biodiversity of the planet will severely suffer.

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The benefits of rewilding and biodiversity

‘The term biodiversity (from the phrase “biological diversity”) refers to the variety of life on Earth at all its levels, from genes to ecosystems, and can encompass the evolutionary, ecological, and cultural processes that sustain life’

– greenmatters.com

Biodiversity is needed as we rely on different ecosystems to provide water, food and medicine. If one species becomes extinct, this often creates a collateral affect on other species, increasing the loss of biodiversity within different ecosystems.

Without these intricate ecosystems human societies could not exist. The different benefits which we draw from these ecosystems is known as ecosystem services.

Due to the increase in the human population and deforestation, biodiversity is at a rapid decline, meaning different species are set to become extinct in unprecedented numbers and the ecosystems we rely on are starting to disappear.

However, one solution to the rapid loss of biodiversity is rewilding nature.

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‘Rewilding is a progressive approach to conservation. It’s about letting nature take care of itself, enabling natural processes to shape land and sea, repair damaged ecosystems and restore degraded landscapes. Through rewilding, wildlife’s natural rhythms create wilder, more biodiverse habitats’

– rewildingeurope.com

This definition provides a broad overview of rewilding, however different types of rewilding also exist.

Passive rewilding: Aims to reduce human interference by letting nature take its course and thrive on its own

Pleistocene rewilding: During the Pleistocene era, a mass extinction of megafauna occurred. Some believe this left an imbalance to our ecosystems, this approach suggests including non-native species into different ecosystems to restore a balance of different species.

Translocation rewilding: A proactive approach which reintroduces species which were previously lost from certain ecosystems, with the goal of restoring areas to a state of previous wellbeing.

Rewilding not only applies to rural areas but also to urban landscapes as well. The benefits of green urban areas can be made possible by increasing the number of forests and parks in cities as well as reduced pesticides and harmful management. Allowing for a more environmentally friendly landscape has also led to some interesting developments, such as those currently underway in Singapore.

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News: Leather material made using fungi

Recent researchers have invented a way to make leather out of fungi. As we know, many consumer products are made using leather which has a big impact on the way we treat certain animals and the environment. However, this biofabricated material using fungi can help reduce our impact on certain animals and also supplement a huge variety of consumer products.

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A quote taken from the research article states:
While traditional leather and its alternatives are sourced from animals and synthetic polymers, these renewable sustainable leather substitutes are obtained through the upcycling of low-cost agricultural and forestry by-products into chitinous polymers and other polysaccharides using a natural and carbon-neutral biological fungal growth process‘.

Just as I have talked about certain items made from algae in a previous post, this fungi material may help solve some of the leading issues in fashion and consumerism. Helping to provide an alternative solution with less of an impact on the environment which in turn creates a healthier planet.

Of course, to get the most positive outcome everyone would need to stop buying products which harm the animals and environment as well as adopting more vegetarian diets. Unfortunately, due to climate denial and a lack of education provided on the subject, this is not a feasible solution even though it would yield the more efficient outcome.

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Although change can be arduous, research breakthroughs such as these are a step in the right direction in terms of how we need to think but also how we make lifestyle choices. As we continue to learn how to live with nature and not have it exist for our benefit alone, we will begin to witness some of the transformations toward a more sustainable future.

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Why climate change is more of a concern now than ever before

Currently, climate change is a major issue for humanity and one that cannot be solved easily. The words ‘climate change’ are somewhat natural when looking at the Earth’s history but presently represent a host of different issues which are all interlinked in some way. From deforestation, pollution, carbon emissions to overfishing, meat consumption and consumerism all affect the planet’s sustainability and biodiversity.

A recent video which helps summarise my point further can be found below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Sl28fkrozE&t=0s&ab_channel=TED

What will be looked at today is the history of global warming and the consequences melting ice and rising temperatures.

The first appearances of climate change occurred during the 1820s when Joseph Fourier discovered that atmospheric gases could trap heat emitted by the sun. Today, we now know this early discovery has degrading consequences, especially for those contributing least to the problem.

Two examples of the progression of our planet’s degradation I will draw from are the melting of ice and warming of the planet.

The melting of ice worsens with each passing year as the time-lapse below demonstrates.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J7x9leQqrkc&feature=emb_logo&ab_channel=AGU

Some of the problems which follow the ice melting are associated with flooded coastal areas, disturbed marine ecosystems and the collapse of polar ecosystems. Each bring their own set of problems to the table and some of the consequences of these changes are yet unknown as our planet as never experienced such radical climate change in recent history.

The warming of the planet, which is interlinked with the melting of ice, brings a host of separate problems as well. As shown in the video below, global warming has considerably increased over the past 100 years.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3sqdyEpklFU&feature=emb_logo&ab_channel=NASAClimateChange

The consequences associated with global warming consist of longer breeding seasons for insects and this ultimately leads to population imbalances, such as locusts, taking place in parts of Africa and Asia leading to reduce crop yields. Global warming also causes permafrost to thaw, releasing ancient viruses and harmful gases, such as methane, back into the atmosphere.

The amalgamation of these two interlinked issues which fall under the umbrella of climate change demonstrate the complexity of the problem at hand. Demonstrating that as a collective we must take climate change seriously and invent efficient ways to deal with these complex issues.

In summary, these two main examples are clearly interlinked and disturb the planet’s natural systems. However, as mentioned earlier these are only two issues amongst a plethora of other concerns which are caused by human behaviour and affect the planet’s health. Therefore, in striving for solutions to these problems it is vital that we take a collective responsibility and not leave it in the hands of a minority of scientists and technological innovation.

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Sl28fkrozE&t=0s&ab_channel=TED
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/225789568_Global_warming_and_state-corporate_crime_The_politicalization_of_global_warming_under_the_Bush_administration
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J7x9leQqrkc&feature=emb_logo&ab_channel=AGU
https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/3/11/e1700537
https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/gcb.12337
https://utsc.utoronto.ca/news-events/breaking-research/most-polar-bear-populations-likely-collapse-end-century-if-global-warming
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3sqdyEpklFU&feature=emb_logo&ab_channel=NASAClimateChange
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/225789568_Global_warming_and_state-corporate_crime_The_politicalization_of_global_warming_under_the_Bush_administration
https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2020/jun/08/rolling-emergency-of-locust-swarms-decimating-africa-asia-and-middle-east
https://arcticwwf.org/newsroom/the-circle/arctic-tipping-point/thawing-permafrost/

How climate change plays a key role in the frequency of virus infections

The current pandemic has claimed thousands of lives over the past six months and left many more with long-term injuries. However, the coronavirus is not unique, since the start of the 21st century there have been many other outbreaks of infectious diseases, such as Ebola, SARS, swine flu and zika – although none have managed to spread quite like the coronavirus. The catalyst for such diseases can be explained by using China as an example, as their population nears 1.5 billion and the conditions of wet markets in their countries are a perfect place for diseases to spread. This is due to the poor conditions the animals are kept in, making it easy for diseases to spread from one another, as humans consume these animals it is more likely that these diseases will spread from animal to human. However, it is not only such conditions which increase the likelihood of infectious diseases but also climate change, more specifically global warming.

https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cag/global/time-series/globe/land_ocean/ytd/12/1880-2019

As the above graph demonstrates, global temperatures continue to increase due to the high amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, among other reasons, which creates an catalyst for infectious diseases. Higher temperatures have been associated with increased rates of spreading disease through carriers such as insects. Insects which carry diseases, one example being mosquitos which spread malaria and zika, have longer breeding seasons and life cycles due to the higher temperatures which we are experiencing globally (Lynch et al. 2010). As temperatures continue to increase each year, the rate of infectious diseases will continue to increase due to these prolonged life cycles. This helps understand the correlation between global warming and the rate of diseases we have seen since the start of the 21st century.

Although this may seem alarming, scientists are hard at work in creating solutions to such problems. One such solution is the engineering of genetically modified male mosquitos which when breeding with females do not carry over diseases, therefore prohibiting the amount of infectious diseases which can be spread to humans.

The spread of infectious diseases due to climate change has also been found in other ways, such as the melting of permafrost. Permafrost is frozen land found in the Northern hemisphere typically trapping gases such as methane underneath it. As global temperatures continue to rise, scientists have discovered that these frozen landscapes are beginning to melt, thus releasing a lot of harmful gases as well as lethal diseases back into the environment. In 2016, scientists discovered that a young boy had died of anthrax which had been sourced from dead reindeers which had been frozen for more than 70 years, however due to the melting of permafrost this exposed land released this disease back into the environment.

Credit: Ben Curtis/AP – Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/gallery/2020/jan/24/billions-of-locusts-swarm-through-kenya-in-pictures

Additionally, climate change and its association with unpredictable weather patterns can create other problems involving insects and population imbalance. Since 2019, many parts of Asia, Africa and the Middle East have been experiencing large quantities of locust which are surpassing into the billions and devouring the crops the people there rely on. This demonstrates the unpredictable consequences of climate change and the lack of preparation governments and nations have in terms of dealing with these problems.

As infections diseases, population outbursts and many other problems continue to surface due to the radical change in the planet’s climate, solutions and international cooperation to these problems continue to appear somewhat vacant. Spreading awareness of these issues are most important in helping to bring attention to these catastrophes which are without solutions. As time is somewhat running out in terms of irreversible damage, this seems to truly be a situation where everyone is responsible but also a time where everyone needs to get involved to help combat these destructive issues.

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