classnotes21 - Conservation Biology(Note if you're...

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Conservation Biology (Note: if you’re interested, I have taught a class on this subject - the web page is at:) http://mason.gmu.edu/~alaemmer/consbiol/cblecture.html A working definition - determining how best to conserve (protect/preserve) organisms, particularly how to prevent them from becoming extinct. (Note that sometimes conservation Biology can become very political - we'll see some examples): First, why conserve? Economic impacts: - Food - we rely on other species for food. There are potentially still many food sources we haven’t explored yet. We also need an environment good enough in which to grow food. - Medicine - most medicines have their origins in other organisms - periwinkle from Madagascar - used to treat cancer - taxol was mentioned earlier this semester (used to treat breast cancer). - anticoagulants derived from bat or leech saliva. - Clothing, shelter, etc. - wood, leather, sisal, cotton, etc. - Recreation - parks are big business. Hunting, hiking, camping, birdwatching, photography, etc. - 1996 estimate puts value of these things at 87.8 billion dollars. Spiritual values - people derive pleasure from wildlife. - difficult to gage economic impact, but this is the kind of thing that gets people to participate in “save the polar bear campaigns”, and similar. - many people have a more direct religious connection with individual species or certain habitats / areas.
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- Mt. Sinai, Ayers rock, etc. Ecological values - species interact with each other - if one disappears, it can affect many others (e.g. otter & kelp). - wetlands can treat waste waters (if it’s done correctly) - dunes & marshes can buffer coastal areas from storms. - forests can increase water quality But, this does raise an issue - what is important in one society, is not necessarily important in another. For example: - if we decide conservation is important and want to “save” a species, we need to be aware that not all societies may feel the same way about conservation. - in the U.S. many people don’t like snakes (rattlesnake roundups are still popular events). In India, cobras are held in very high regard (almost sacred). - Dogs are favorite pets in the U.S. In some parts of south east Asia, they’re food. - even in the U.S., attitudes can change from one area to the next. - most people probably think Mt. Lions and Grizzly Bears are kind of neat. But what about the folks living next to Yellowstone? If we decided to re-introduce Mt. Lions into Northern Virginia, how many folks would be pro-Mt. Lion? - often education can help here. - perhaps mentioning all the mice and pests that snakes eat might help. - some people have changed their attitudes to bats once they figured out that they eat tons of insects. Some people even put up bat houses in their yards. Any efforts at conservation must consider these social factors! Main threats conservation needs to deal with (the book only mentions the first three): 1) Habitat destruction habitat is the environment an organisms lives in (the environment the organism needs to survive).
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a) urbanization - some examples: George Mason University:
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