Here in my home state of Kentucky, less than one-half of 1% of our 25.8 million acres remains in its natural state. Considering that 80% of Kentucky’s wetlands have been destroyed, more than 500 of the Commonwealth’s plants and animal species are considered rare, and environmental degradation impacts one-third of state monitored waterways. Many natural resource experts are calling for a new holistic approach to the way we protect the state’s ecological health. The management approach many are promoting is Biodiversity Management.
Biological Diversity is the variety and variability among living organisms and the ecological complexes in which they occur.
Biological Diversity includes:
- Genetic Diversity: the genetic variation found within each species
- Species Diversity: the range of species in a given ecosystem
- Community/Ecosystem Diversity: the variety of habitat types and ecosystem processes extending over a given region
That all sounds great so whats the problem? Wildlife managers have had two major problems trying to manage for biodiversity:
- The methods of funding wildlife agencies (license sales) and the influence of specific “user groups” (hunters, anglers) results in a few species (deer, etc) receiving the most management attention
- Enhancing Productivity – not diversity – is often the main goal of wildlife managers.
But times are changing! Wildlife agencies now talk about how maintaining diversity is not the only important goal of wildlife management, but it IS one of the most fundamental goals! (E.g., the USFWS’ National Watershed-Based Ecosystem Management Units)
So how can wildlife managers “manage” for biodiversity?
One example is by using a GIS technique called Gap Analysis. This involves identifying individual plant and animals species that make up a biological community – examining the existing management areas or protected areas in the region – and determining which species or communities are not protected, thus identifying the “gaps” in preserving the biological diversity of a region.
Every animal and plant plays an important role in an ecosystem – even if that ecosystem is only your back yard! Managing for diversity can benefit the health of your system in ways that are hard to imagine. For example, say you have a small pond or water feature in your yard – adding aquatic plants allow dragonflies to lay their eggs and propagate. And guess what adult dragonflies eat? Mosquitos! Making your backyard even more enjoyable.
Having a diverse ecosystem is how mother nature would have it, and following that idea leads to the most productive and healthy habitats available.
This concludes the “Wildlife &” series! Next we’ll discuss Conservation Biology briefly before moving on to a whole new “class”! Stay tuned!