Biodiversity: Biodiversity Conservation
Biodiversity Conservation: Biodiversity
The term ‘biodiversity’ refers to the various life forms that we experience around us. Biodiversity conservation has to do with the protection of biodiversity with the aim of ensuring that the environment remains capable of meeting the needs of current and future populations. This text provides answers to a series of discussion question touching on the concepts of biodiversity and biodiversity conservation in Canada.
Conservation of Biological Diversity
List at least three major threats to biological diversity in Canada. Which of these is the most significant and why?
The term ‘biological diversity’ basically refers to the various life forms that we experience around us. In Canada, it is threatened by a variety of factors that include human activities, pollution, and competing land uses. In my view, human activities is the most significant threat to biodiversity given that almost every single human activity causes some form of alteration to the natural environment. Conversion of natural habitats to farmlands owing to increased food production demands has, for instance, resulted in the loss of over 80% of prairie habitat (Conservation Issues, n.d.). Moreover, agriculture continues to result in the extirpations and reduction of wild-pollinating insects, scrublands, grasslands, and other fauna. Poor agricultural practices continue to cause the loss of top soil and to degrade soil quality. What is even worse is that the trend is expected to continue as our population grows larger.
2. Briefly explain the basic approaches that Canada is taking to involve different stakeholders in its effort to conserve biodiversity
Canada is using two main approaches to get all stakeholders involved in the conservation of biodiversity. The first is responsibility-sharing — the federal government recognizes the conservation of biodiversity as a joint effort requiring the collaboration of all the different stakeholders. For this reason, it has shared the conservation responsibility among itself, provincial and territorial governments, wildlife management boards, local communities, and individuals, each one with a specific part to play in the conservation efforts (Environment Canada, 2015). A second approach that the country has adopted is the formation of strategic partnerships with stakeholders in both the private and the public sector to aid the conservation efforts (Environment Canada, 2015). A perfect example of a partnership bringing together various stakeholders was formed between the federal government, municipal governments, residents, ranchers and farmers to help restore the rangelands in western Canada, which had been severely destroyed by human activities.
3. Explain why non-native species are considered a threat to the conservation of biological diversity. What strategies are being used to counter the effects of this threat?
Non-native species can be defined simply as species that are not native to a particular area, but which arrive with the help of humans and then spread on their own. They are considered a threat to the conservation of biodiversity because they often cause damage or even extinction to native species through habitat modification, predation, hybridization and competition for resources. A perfect example of a as a threat to biodiversity is that of the brown tree snake, an invasive species that has almost wiped out all the native bird and lizard species in Guam Island in the Pacific Ocean. A number of strategies are currently being implemented to curb the threat posed by these species. Strategies at the prevention level include providing access to information on the risk and dangers posed by such species, increasing public awareness on how the species spread to minimize the risk of the same by humans, and to be used by stakeholders and other working groups. At the operational level, strategies include using chemical and laboratory-generated techniques to control the spread of the species (for instance, taking eggs to laboratories to prevent them from hatching, injecting the species with drugs that prohibit reproduction, and so on), and establishing refuge for the native species under threat.
4. List and describe the biological features of a species that contributes to its vulnerability and extinction
A species that contributes to its own vulnerability and extinction is characterized by a number of traits, including:
i) Low reproductive rates — the continuity of a species is best reflected through its reproductive rate. A species with a low reproductive rate make themselves less likely to progress and recover if their habitat is destroyed, and this makes them more vulnerable to habitat modifications and hence, extinction. This is particularly the case with species that require specific conditions to breed, such as birds that will only breed after they have displayed courtship behavior in front of other males.
ii) Low natural mortality rates — a low natural mortality rate implies that new members are being born, and very few (if any) are dying. Such a species makes itself vulnerable to competition, and consequently extinction if their habitat is destroyed
iii) Specialization of diet or habitat — species that depend on a particular type of food source or habitat alone make themselves unable to adjust to alterations and are consequently, prone to extinction
iv) Altruism — this refers to the unselfish care for members of one’s own species; members of an altruistic species will often not their wounded or fallen mates when confronted by predators. This trait makes them vulnerable to predation themselves and increases their chances of extinction.
v) Colony breeding — species that prefer to breed in colonies for protection or survival make themselves vulnerable to easy predation and are prone o extinction.
5. What classification levels have been developed to protect species internationally, nationally, and provincially? Consider the peregrine falcon; how is it classified on a global, regional, national and provincial basis. Why are the classifications different or the same at the various levels?
The conservation of a species is dependent on the level of risk that it is considered to be in. In Canada, four different categories for ranking species at risk exist — the provincial status, the national status, the regional status, and the global status. At the provincial level, species identified as being at risk by the NS Species at Risk Working Group are classified into three levels i) Endangered — facing imminent extinction or extirpation, ii) Threatened — likely to become endangered if limiting factors are not corrected, and iii) Vulnerable — of special concern because its qualities and characteristics make it sensitive to natural events or human activities.
At the national level, species identified as being at risk by the COSEWIC are also classified into the three classification levels used at the provincial level.
At the regional level, species are classified into 5 classifications: S1- extremely rare throughout the region (5 or fewer occurrences), S2- rare throughout its range in the province (between 6 and 20 occurrences), S3- uncommon throughout its range in the province (21 to 100 occurrences), S4 –usually widespread; fairly common throughout its range in the region (100 plus occurrences), and S5 — demonstrably widespread, abundant and secure.
At the international global ranks (G-Ranks), species are classified at 5 levels: i) G1- critically imperiled, with extreme rarity (5 or fewer individuals), ii) G2 — imperiled globally because of rarity (6 to 20 occurrences), iii) G3- very rare (21 to 100 occurrences), G4- apparently globally secure, and G5- demonstrably secure globally
The Peregrine falcon is classified as threatened at the national and provincial levels, G4 at the global level and S4 at the regional level. The difference in classification is because different levels have different categorization systems and definitions for classifying the risk level of species. The definition used at the national and provincial levels differs from that used at the global and regional levels, hence the difference in classification levels for the same species.
Part 2: Ecosystem Management
6. Define the term ecosystem management and describe how it is useful in the conservation of biological diversity
Ecosystem management can be defined simply as the process of conserving natural and ecological resources while meeting the needs of both current and future generations.
7. Briefly describe the 5 steps the ecosystem management process and indicate difficulties that may be encountered at each step
The process of ecosystem management comprises of five major steps. The first step is the determination of the main stakeholders (all people with an interest in the ecosystem of interest) and the development of the relationship between the identified stakeholders and the ecosystem area (Shepherd, 2013). Here, one will need to perform stakeholder analysis to be able to determine who the primary and secondary stakeholders are, and what their interest in the ecosystem is. One of the main challenges that could be encountered at this stage is how to accurately identify all stakeholders involved particularly when the ecosystem is large. It may also be rather difficult organizing the identified stakeholders and assessing their level of commitment to the project. Once stakeholders have been identified, the next step is to characterize the function, setting and structure of the ecosystem, that is the characteristics that the ecosystem needs to be able to deliver key goods and services (Shepherd, 2013). This would require the help and input of all identified stakeholders. A key feature of this stage is the decentralization of management to different levels (based on the identified stakeholders) — at the district level, national level, community groups, individual farmers, and so on. The main challenge at this stage, therefore, has to do with coordination. Given that the ecosystem’s management has been decentralized to lower levels, it may be difficult coordinating the different levels of management, and getting them to stay focused on the project.
The third stage of ecosystem management involves identifying the important economic issues that could affect the ecosystem and its stakeholders, for instance, what incentives are driving inhabitants to work natural resources unsustainably? One could identify issues such as bribes taken by local officials in exchange for permits and such like things. One would also have to identify the positive incentives (if any) that are driving people to use natural resources sustainably, perhaps better knowledge, a stronger voice in decision-making, and so on (Shepherd, 2013). Once these have been identified, the manager is supposed to come up with ways of developing a pay-off system where people pay for the environmental costs they generate, and those who look after the resource are allowed to control it. The main challenge here is to quantify the damage done by a party to the ecosystem and attach a numerical value that accurately reflects the same. The fourth step after economic costs and benefits have been identified and quantified is determining how the ecosystem impacts on other ecosystems, that is how the management practices of your ecosystem are affecting operations and activities in adjacent ecosystems. For instance, if our management system disallows certain livestock rearing and agricultural processes, it is possible that all the livestock may cluster in the next ecosystem. It would be prudent to identify these unforeseen effects and put in place effective measures to curb the same, by for instance, encouraging stakeholders in that particular ecosystem to also undertake a management program. The difficulty here lies in knowing whether the effects being experienced in the adjacent ecosystem were indeed caused by the management processes undertaken in one’s ecosystem. The final step in the process of ecosystem management is the formulation of long-term goals to be achieved by the ecosystem. The main challenge at this stage lies in being able to formulate effective and realistic goals given that natural systems and ecosystems keep changing (Shepherd, 2013).
8. Provide two examples of ecosystem management objectives for:
i) A park and protected area — human activities are the major threat to biodiversity in a park setting. Irresponsible littering by visitors, for instance, could damage the activity of soil bacteria, particularly when polythene wrappers are involved. One management objective, in this regard would be to eliminate irresponsible littering by visitors. A second major threat to protected areas is the issue of poaching (predation by human subjects). Another objective, therefore, would be to reduce the direct threat posed by human subjects to the protected resources.
ii) A forested ecosystem — wild fires would be a core threat in a forest context. As such, one management objective would be to minimize the risk of wildfires in the ecosystem. Another major threat would be human activities, particularly deforestation; one objective in this regard would be to educate and create awareness among local populations on the dangers and risks of deforestation to biodiversity.
Part Three: Sustainability of the Boreal Forests Woodland Caribou
9. What is the conservation status designation of boreal populations of woodland caribou in Canada? What are the major features of the species that lead to their designation as a species at risk?
The Boreal populations of woodland Caribou are designated as a Threatened population. The main reason for their designation as a population at risk is their declining numbers. The population occurs at low densities in boreal forests habitats from Yukon to Labrador (David Suzuki Foundation, 2013). The past century has, however, seen their numbers decline substantially, with massive losses in local subpopulations and range-wide declines despite immense conservation efforts. The population has recorded negative population growth rates, with over 80% of the 51 subpopulations reported to be in decline. It is projected that population increases are highly unlikely in one-third of the subpopulations, and experts estimate that the species as whole will record a 30% decline in the near-term (David Suzuki Foundation, 2013).
10. In what provinces are the boreal woodland caribou found? Does their conservation status differ from province to province? Why would this be so?
The Woodland caribou are found in Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, the Northwest Territories, and Newfoundland and Labrador (David Suzuki Foundation, 2013). The species’ conservation status, however, varies from province to province, with some such as Quebec classifying the species as Vulnerable, even though it has been classified as ‘Threatened’ at the national level. The main major reason for the differences in classification across provinces is that different jurisdictions have different ways of defining a population at risk, and provinces will often assign a classification based on what their specific definition is (David Suzuki Foundation, 2013). As such, there are bound to be differences in how provinces classify a particular species.
11. How many populations of boreal woodland caribou have been designated in Manitoba, and are these populations self-sustaining?
Eleven populations of boreal woodland Caribou have been designated in Manitoba. Of these, only four are classified as self-sustaining, capable of enduring more habitat changes and alterations. 2 are labeled not self-sustaining and 5 are self-sustaining, but may stop being self-sustaining in the near-term if degradation continues (Thiesen, 2012).
12. Step 1 of the ecosystem management approach is to define stakeholders and area under consideration for the development of an ecosystem management plan. Explain how this can be done for the Manitoba caribou population.
Stakeholder analysis will need to be conducted to identify the primary, secondary and tertiary stakeholders in the conservation project. Primary stakeholders are those people who are most likely to take an active part in the management of the resource; those who are most dependent upon it. In the case of Manitoba, these would be the local Aboriginal people, the people that lose when the level of tourism in the province goes down. These primary stakeholders need to be allowed to play an active role in the project, and need to be given a say in how the conservation project ought to be run. Secondary and tertiary stakeholders to the conservation project would also be identified through stakeholder analysis — in this case, secondary stakeholders would include wildlife conservation groups within the province and local government officials, whereas tertiary stakeholders would include international conservation organizations and officials from the national government. Once stakeholders have been identified, the specific ecosystem area would need to be chosen — owing to the size of Manitoba, it would be unreasonable to assume that we could execute a management program covering the whole area — we could select a suitable management area-based say on the basis of population’s self sustenance. We, for instance, have already identified that two caribou populations — William Lake and Kississing — are not self-sustaining, and are in need of urgent rehabilitation. We could select the specific ranges where these two populations are found as the first ecosystems to be managed. Later on, when these have been adequately managed, we could move to other ranges within the province, until all ranges have been effectively rehabilitated.
13. Step 2 of the ecosystem management process requires that the ecosystem structure and function be described, and then applied to establish objectives. Describe how the following ecosystem features must be included in the management plan to ensure the viability of the species in future.
i) Primary producers — the term ‘primary producers’ refers to plants and bacteria that can manufacture their own food from simple inorganic compounds, with the use of chemical energy or radiant energy. These will be an important part of the management plan. The plan will need to focus on how to protect the green plants of the woodland forests, and the bacteria in the soil upon which they grow. The plan could include efforts geared at educating the Aboriginal communities living in the area on the concept of conservation agriculture; they could be educated on how to use crop rotation and the concepts of permanent soil cover to prevent causing damage to soil bacteria. They could also be educated on the issue of deforestation and its implications to native species, and the local government could prohibit and develop stiff punishments for deforestation of woodland forests.
Competitors: in our case, these would be the various animal species that are not native to the woodland forests, but come to the same, and will be competing with the caribou for resources. Humans are also included in this category as they compete with the species for available oxygen and forest resources. The human competitors can be addressed through education, awareness programs, and enactment of penalties. For the non-native competitors, the management plan could include the formation of partnerships with relevant management boards such as the porcupine management board to devise effective ways of protecting habitats for both the caribou and their competitors.
Predators: the caribou face significant threats from Moose and wolves as a result of the proliferation of such features as roads and seismic lines. The plan could address this by identifying specific areas where the caribou are concentrated, and devising ways to shield them from their predators. One possible strategy is fencing and wall construction. Laboratory technology could be used to prevent the further reproduction of such predators in the woodland forests, and the local government be educated on the implications of proliferating roads and seismic lines across natural habitats.
Forestry and mining practices: These threats can be managed through the formation of partnerships with fire, mining and forestry management boards to come up with effective frameworks for habitat cycling through natural regeneration, and to ensure that such activities are carried out on a rotational; basis so that the habitat remains suitable for the caribou. Stiff penalties could also be put in place to punish those found not to live by the set standards for
14. Describe how seasonal factors must be included in the ecosystem management plan
The data presented in tables 1 and 2 represents the effect of seasonal factors on the overall well-being of woodland caribou. It would appear like food sources are less easily available during fall/winter, and wolves feed on caribou more during such periods. To increase the well-being of the caribou, the management plan could identify ways of manually stimulating the growth of mushrooms, flowers, leaves and ground lichen during summer and spring so that more food sources are available to the species when winter strikes. At the same time, the plan could focus on devising ways of curbing the entry of green wolves into the woodland forests, particularly during winter. Partnerships could be formed with relevant management boards such as the Grey Wolf Management Board to understand how the wolves’ biological systems work, and how their hibernation could be increased during winter so the threat to the caribou is minimized.
15. Devise one management objective that would enhance the conservation of the woodland caribou species in Eastern and Northern Manitoba.
Based on the responses provided in questions 13 and 14 above, I would say that the management program’s main objective is to reduce the direct threats that have an impact on the survival of the boreal caribou species.
16. Explain how different knowledge systems, partnerships and management practices can be used in the development and implementation of the ecosystem management plan.
As I mentioned elsewhere in this text, strategic partnerships are one way through which a management plan could actively involve all stakeholders in the conservation and recovery process. In this case, the planners could form partnerships and alliances with relevant management boards for the various predators and competitors in the ecosystem, and share knowledge with relevant officials to determine how the threat posed to the caribou by the various species could be minimized. We have mentioned, for instance, that the grey wolf poses a significant threat to the survival of the caribou, particularly during winter — entering into partnership and sharing knowledge with representatives from the board representing this species could go a long way in the formulation of effective strategies for minimizing this threat. At the same time, knowledge sharing should also occur at the primary stakeholder level — there is need to give local communities a say in the project, to educate them and to also get them actively involved in the entire process. These are just some of the ways through which partnerships and knowledge sharing would come into play in the development and implementation of the plan.
17. What are the future threats to Manitoba populations of boreal woodland Caribou, and how can these threats be managed?
Among the core threats to the woodland caribou species in future are the alterations brought about by climate change. Global warming is expected to cause an increase in the occurrence of forest fires, an increase in ungulate parasites, and range expansion of forest insects (Manitoba Management Committee, 2014). All of these could alter the caribou’s habitat and pose a significant threat to its future survival. Another core threat in Manitoba is the routing of roads and hydro lines as the province continues to open up for recreation and economic development (Manitoba Boreal Woodland Caribou Management Committee, 2014). These threats can be managed through the formation of partnerships with fire and forestry management boards to come up with effective frameworks for habitat cycling through natural regeneration. Silvicultural planning could also go a long way towards ensuring that the habitat remains suitable for the species on a rotational basis.
David Suzuki Foundation. (2013). Population Critical: How are Caribou Faring? CPAWS. Retrieved October 29, 2015 from http://cpaws.org/uploads/BorealCaribouReport-CPAWS_DSF.pdf
Environment Canada. (2015). Planning for a Sustainable Future: A Federal Sustainable Development Strategy for Canada 2013-2016. Environment Canada. Retrieved October 29, 2015 from http://www.ec.gc..asp?lang=en&n=CD4179F6-1
Manitoba Boreal Woodland Caribou Management Committee. (2014). Conserving the Icon of the Boreal: Manitoba’s Boreal Woodland Caribou Recovery Strategy. Manitoba Boreal Woodland Caribou Management Committee. Retrieved October 29, 105 from https://www.gov.mb.ca/conservation/wildlife/sar/pdf/caribou_strategy.pdf
Shepherd, G. (2013). The Ecosystem Approach: Five Steps to Implementation. IUCN. Retrieved 29 October, 2009 from https://portals.iucn.org/library/efiles/documents/CEM-003.pdf
Thiesen, R. (2013). Backgrounder: The Survival of Boreal Woodland Caribou in Manitoba. CPAWS. Retrieved 29 October, 2015 from http://cpawsmb.org/campaigns/woodland-caribou/backgrounder/