By Marg Evans, CCCS —
May 22 is International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB), proclaimed by the United Nations in 1993 to place a spotlight on biodiversity and its significance to our survival. The concerns are fragmentation, degradation, and changes in the composition of many ecosystems due to various pressures, including loss of habitat often due to the pressures from urbanization and industrial activity.
This year’s IDB theme is Sustainable Development Goals. Biodiversity assures healthy ecosystems, which means we have adequate food supplies, nutrients, fresh water, and clean air. Simply put, it is the variety of systems within nature such as the forests, grasslands, tundra, freshwater, and salt water ecosystems and all that live within. In BC, we can visit the ocean, an alpine meadow, and a rain forest, and then watch Bighorn sheep graze the grasslands in just a day or two of travel. In Williams Lake, a few hours drive in any direction may lead us to the grasslands, glaciers, ice caves, world class wildlife viewing, the world’s deepest fjord lake, majestic forests, and rivers teaming with spawning salmon.
Maintaining healthy, biodiverse systems includes sustainable agriculture practices, restoring and managing our forests, watersheds, grasslands, species at risk, and alien species. All life relies on plentiful fresh supplies of water and healthy habitat. With the best intentions, we often forget there is a balance and that all life systems are linked. Take one feature out of the system or add one in, as in the case of alien species, and chaos may reign.
In 1946 the Argentina government decided that the Canadian beaver might be a great industry for them to pursue. In Canada, the fur industry boon crashed in the mid-1800s when beaver fur hats when out of style and ended a period rather hazardous to the beaver. According to B. Winter’s 2004 article in Reuters, sixty years and tens of thousands of beaver later, a beaver transplant was deemed an ecological disaster in Argentina since that country has no natural predators of the beaver.
There are countless stories of species transplanted for one reason or another; the well thought out ones have been credited with saving species from extinction. Others may well have hastened native species to become at risk, as is often the case with invasive plants and as in the case of the beaver in Argentina and the moose in Newfoundland. Often little-understood networks play a vital role in a species’ survival. Take the tiny Rufous hummingbird, for example. It returns to the Cariboo in the early spring, well before the flowers that provide them with nectar bloom or the insects they feed on emerge, so how does it survive? Well, their network involves old Douglas fir snags and woodpeckers. The woodpeckers feed throughout the year by drilling holes in Douglas fir snags. In the spring, these drip with sap in which are trapped insects, which provide the hummingbird with its spring food source.
The decline in pollinators in the past few years may be another indicator of our effects on biodiversity. The significance of this may not initially be realized as important to humans; however, if no fruit trees are pollinated, no apples, peaches, oranges, or berries—no raspberry jam, blueberry pie… you begin to realize the personal impact.
Recently, I went in search of a bucket of treasured local honey and was told, “Sorry, no more honey until fall.” Why? A 75 per cent die-off of bees. On a global scale, the outcome is much more serious than my loss of honey for tea. Pollinators play a disproportionately large role in human nutrition and health, because pollinators support crops that deliver essential nutrients to those countries of the world where poverty and malnutrition are prevalent.
According to studies reported in Science AAAS in October, 2014, “Vitamin A and iron deficiencies were three times more likely to occur in areas where nutrient production was most dependent upon pollinators.” These deficiencies are associated with vision loss and increased mortality. So what can we do? Avoid the use of known toxins in products you buy, including certain pyrethroid, neonicotinoid, organophosphate, and avermectin insecticides. As much as possible, just keep it natural.
Our planet has limited resources and many species needing to cohabitate. So join the United Nations in their Sustainable Development goals towards food security, the sustainable management of water and natural resources, and sustainable consumption and production, and therefore aim for a sustainable economy where people live healthy, fulfilling lives with sustainable livelihoods.
So, managing our sanitation, being dedicated to reduce-recycle-reuse where ever possible, choosing sustainable energy sources, developing sustainable industry and economic growth, keeping our watersheds contaminate-free and watching our water consumption, is all crucial. As well, by being very careful that our activities are not destroying other species’ habitats, following healthy life choices, we contribute to the positive effect biodiversity plays in mitigating climate change.
For more information on the wonderfully biodiverse ecosystems of the Cariboo-Chilcotin, visit www.ccconserv.org.