The world is quickly approaching a time when we may have to decide how much biodiversity to preserve as the human population grows and consumes resources at an alarming rate. There are many different ways to approach the challenge of preserving biodiversity, and each community will have to devise its own unique solutions.
- Ecology is the scientific study of how organisms interact with their environment. Contemporary ecology involves the sustainable use of natural resources, the protection of biodiversity, and conservation strategies to prevent extinctions.
- Priorities for contemporary ecology include protecting natural habitats, maintaining ecosystem services like clean water and healthy soil, curbing overhunting, and invasive reforestation.
- Conservation strategies focus on halting human activity that leads to further degradation of biodiversity and restoring stressed ecosystems through ecological restoration techniques.
The world is quickly approaching a time when we may have to make difficult choices about how much biodiversity to preserve as the human population grows and consumes resources at an alarming rate. There is no one answer to this question, as the best way to preserve biodiversity will vary depending on the location and culture. Nevertheless, a few general principles can be followed to help prevent biodiversity from becoming an obstacle to human progress. It is important to remember that biodiversity is not a single entity. Rather, it is a collection of different plants and animals that have evolved together over time (Duelli, 1997). Therefore, it is not possible to simply protect all species of wildlife without also protecting their habitats. Also, it is essential to ensure that humans do not damage or destroy vital wildlife habitats. This can be done by limiting development in areas likely to contain natural wildlife habitats, enforcing rules governing land use, and prohibiting the hunting and trapping of wildlife (Bennett & Robinson, 2000).
What’s more, it is essential to create incentives for people to protect biodiversity. This can be done by providing financial compensation for those who take measures to preserve biodiversity or by creating laws or regulations that make it more difficult for people to damage or destroy wildlife habitats. There are many different ways to approach the challenge of preserving biodiversity, and each community will likely have to devise its own unique solutions. However, following these general principles should help ensure that human progress does not come at the expense of nature’s diversity. In this article, we will explore some of the ways that contemporary ecology is helping us to better understand and protect biodiversity so that we can continue to enjoy its benefits without harming our planet.
What is Ecology?
In a world where humanity is rapidly expanding into new territories and exploiting natural resources at an unprecedented rate, ecological understanding is more important than ever. But what is ecology?
Ecology is the study of interactions between living organisms and their environment (Lévêque, 2003). It encompasses everything from the origins of life to the management of natural resources. This includes both biotic and abiotic factors. Biotic factors are living things an organism interacts with, such as other organisms. Abiotic factors are non-living things, such as weather or soil type. Ecology looks at the patterns of these interactions, as well as the processes that drive them (Kumar & Kumar, 2018). There are many different subfields within ecology. Population ecology looks at how populations of organisms change over time in response to various environmental factors (Begon et al., 2009). Community ecology looks at how different species interact with each other within an ecosystem (Mittelbach & McGill, 2019). Behavioral ecology looks at how animals use behaviors to adapt to their environment (Lima & Zollner, 1996). Ecosystem ecology looks at how energy and matter flow through ecosystems (Warren & Cheney, 1993). Finally, evolutionary ecology looks at how ecological interactions can drive evolution (Holt, 2003).
Humans have always interacted with their environment, but the field of ecology only emerged in the late 19th century. One of the earliest ecologists was a German scientist named Ernst Haeckel, who coined the term ‘ecology’ in 1866 (it comes from the Greek words ‘Oikos’ meaning ‘household’ or ‘dwelling place’ and ‘Logos’ meaning ‘word,’ ‘discourse,’ or ‘reason’). In practical terms, ecology is the key to understanding how human activity impacts biodiversity and ecosystems and vice versa. For example, if humans want to build a road through a protected rainforest, they need to understand how that will affect the plants and animals. Similarly, if we are going to harvest timber from a forest without destroying it, we need to know how the different trees in that forest interact with one another.
What does contemporary ecology involve?
Contemporary ecology is a field of study that concerns the relationships between humans, nature, and the environment. It seeks to understand how human activities affect the natural world and develop strategies for preserving biodiversity and mitigating environmental damage (Kim & Byrne, 2006). This can include topics such as pollution, deforestation, and climate change. Contemporary ecology practitioners work in various fields, including environmental research, public policy analysis, landscape design, and conservation biology. They often work to find ways to sustainably manage natural resources, such as water and forests. Some key concepts in contemporary ecology include the following:
- The ecological footprint: A measure of how much land and water an individual or a population uses relative to their needs (Costanza, 2000).
- Biodiversity: The variety of life forms on Earth (Faith, 2021).
- Ecosystems: Large groups of plants, animals, and other organisms that live together and interact with one another (Rice, 2014).
- Environmental justice: The fair treatment of people who are adversely affected by environmental degradation or human activities (Shrader-Frechette, 2002).
- Integrated pest management: A strategy for controlling pests that includes using different methods to minimize the damage they cause, such as chemical and biological control (Baker et al., 2020).
- Recycling: The process of recovering materials that have already been used, such as plastic bottles, paper products, and cans (Dodbiba & Fujita, 2004).
- Sustainable development: A way of managing resources that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (Verma, 2019).
Contemporary ecology is gaining popularity as more people become interested in learning how their actions impact the environment. Several resources are available to help teach this subject, including online courses and books. Some essential contemporary ecology books include:
- Conservation Science: Balancing the Needs of People and Nature Second Edition by Michelle Marvier and Peter M. Kareiva
- Origins of Order: Self-Organization and Selection in Evolution by Stuart Kauffman
- Surviving the 21st Century: Humanity’s Ten Great Challenges and How We Can Overcome Them by Julian Cribb
- Ecology: The Economy of Nature by Rick Relyea
- Our Ecological Footprint: Reducing Human Impact on the Earth by Mathis Wackernagel and William Rees
The role of ecological restoration