Connecting Habits, Saving Diversity
Updated: Dec 11, 2021
by Sean Kim
The word “biodiversity” is often used in biology, yet many non-experts have difficulty
understanding the extent to which biodiversity is necessary. In short, biodiversity ensures that
species within an ecosystem are protected so that a healthy ecosystem can be maintained.
However, in recent years, the number of species has constantly dwindled, with many species
going extinct. As a result, the scientific community has stressed the importance of devising a
solution to counter the extinction of species.
It is already established that the separation of ecosystems contributes significantly to an
increased risk of the extinction of many endangered species–it serves as a coup de grâce. The fragmentation of ecosystems then leads to less diversity in the remaining habitat. However, by creating connections between different ecosystems, this loss in diversity is insured for when these losses are lessened due to gene flow, or the exchange of genes from different populations of the same species living. Preserving large ecosystems is proving to be increasingly difficult as time goes on. Because former areas of massive ecosystems are now fragmented, by building corridors for ecosystems to intersect with each other, we are giving more room and more chances for these different organisms to survive, rather than be brought to extinction after competing with other species for resources in a small area.
This phenomenon was illustrated in an experiment conducted by Ellen Damschen, which
encompassed over 18 years of research and experimentation. A large ecosystem was divided
into many plots of land, and organisms in those plots were left to grow. By testing plots with
different shape but same area, Damschen and her colleagues wanted to be able to draw
conclusions about two questions: whether these connections that make different ecosystems
intersect truly were effective, and if so, whether the shape, length, and size of these
connections had an effect.
Over 18 years, these plots were observed, and astounding results were produced. In contrast
to their isolated counterparts, the plots that showed the intersection of ecosystems
demonstrated signs of greater biodiversity and fewer cases of extinction.
Overall, this study provides an optimistic outlook for today’s society. Often, man-made
infrastructures arbitrarily divide up large ecosystems, and these smaller, divided sections of
the ecosystem do not have the means to facilitate gene flow, which in turn limits the ability of
populations to thrive. We are within a world with an approximated 8.7 million species,
excluding the many that have not yet been found. It is the duty of humanity to preserve
biodiversity, as a disruption in a food chain can have adverse effects on many different
species, leading to a chain reaction of many species potentially dying out. By creating intersections between these ecosystems, therefore, a potential solution to solve the woes of
the status quo may be reached.