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Introduction to Biodiversity & Conservation Biology

Chapter 1: Primacks A Primer of Conservation Biology And Lecture Notes Week One, 2003

The Main Problems, Definitions


Extinction of species and habitats worldwide Rate of extinction and destruction of ecosystems like nothing seen in the past (not even asteroid collisions with the earth) Asteroid ~60 million years ago, created the Gulf of Mexico, dinosaurs vanish, little mammels survived eventually primates

The Cause of Current Extinctions?


A primate (Homo sapiens) that evolved & appeared 150,000 years ago A being that claims REASON, A MORAL SENSE, and FREE WILL as their unique defining characteristics (Primack, 2003) ULTIMATE CAUSE? : too many people on the planet (6 billion), growing at ~90 million/year (3 every second!!!)

The Problems (Nutshell)


Loss of habitat (defined later) Disruption of entire ecosystems, or parts of (ex. Disruption of water and chemical cycles) LOSS OF GENETIC DIVERSITY Habitat fragmentation Entire climate changes All caused by mans activities

Definitions Habitat: the place where a species or group of species lives, including the healthy ecosystem parts the species needs Species: group of organisms that breed with one another, usually ISOLATED in some way, (a river, a valley, an island, etc.) Population: a group of the same species Community: group of populations occupying the same habitat Ecosystem: community PLUS the physical parts: weather, soil, physical cycles, fires, geology, (many others)

Definitions, cont. Ecosystem Examples: eastern woodlands (SE Ohio), coral reefs, rainforests, a pond in your backyard, an aquarium Biosphere: ALL of the ecosystems on planet earth some believe in the Gaia hypothesis, that the earth itself is a SUPERORGANISM: each species plays a vital role Genetic diversity: the number of alleles in a population- the more, the better for the population Gene: segment of DNA that codes for a protein Allele: alternative form of a gene (one allele from the male and one from the female) usually, one is dominant one is recessive

Definitions, cont.
Loss of Genetic Diversity: ex.: once a population gets down to a small number, they no longer may have the genes needed to fight off a disease (Black-footed ferret, ex.) Biodiversity: basically, the number of sps. in a particular habitat or ecosystem again, the more the better greater biodiversity is better for man Loss of Biodiversity Ex.: in many areas of Ohio former praries, wetlands (after drainage), woodlands, become farmlands of basically: corn and soybeans (hundreds of species reduced to basically two) Conservation Biology: the discipline developed to deal with the tragic loss of habitat, species, genetic diversity, and, damaged ecosystems, AND what we can do to reverse the damage and future losses