Many times when I look around and compare humans to other animals it strikes me that we are the smartest of the species; as we have progressed and developed down the ages.
We have found cure for almost all the problems. Even one disease which was concerning the whole world(Corona virus); we are almost near to finding a vaccine for it and that too in record time. But does it make us to be very smart. Let’s go about it in detail.
Now my second thinking, though only hypothetical, if the dinosaurs would have been alive today; such huge beasts, would they have left human species to thrive and develop over millions of years from the early primates?
There is a whole ecosystem around us and every species alive; plays a role in the food chain, the extinction of some species can have a significant impact. The effect a species has on the ecosystem would largely depend on its role in the ecosystem.
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If a predating animal goes extinct, all of its prey would be released from the predating pressure and would have an impact on the ecosystem and the food web chain. Like, if the population of the deer increases they can destroy forests.
In many parts of Africa as the population of lion and the leopard decreased, the baboon began to come out more in the open and increased their contact with humans. These changes lead to an increase of intestinal parasites both in humans and the baboons.
The sea otters help in maintaining the kelp forests which are a habitat for many species. They prey on species that consume kelp, and if left unchecked the entire kelp bed underwater would be destroyed and turned into a barren wasteland.
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Healthy ecosystems are more productive and resistant to disruptions.
Habitat loss resulting from human expansion due to requirement of land for housing, agriculture and commerce is the biggest threat facing most animal species. The habitat may be changed so much that the animals are not able to adapt to it completely. Fencing of grasslands, pollution of rivers and use of pesticides are some of the examples.
Even if a species is not a keystone species on which the ecosystem depends, its loss will weaken the functionality of the entire ecosystem. The ecosystem around gets more fragile while it adapts to the change.
And what happens if it is an apex species?
These species live longer, have small populations and need more food and greater living space.
Take the case of elephant which may go extinct due to tourism and poaching for ivory.This could change the ecosystem in Africa and Asia. Through consumption patterns, elephants disperse more seeds, which leads to growth of plants and trees that other animals depend for food and shelter. They dig water holes that other animals share and they fertilize soil with dung.
In the past ninety nine percent of the species have gone extinct over five mass extinctions, which were due to volcano eruptions and impact of asteroids. The rate of extinction happening now is much faster due to human activities.
This is due to deforestation, over exploitation like hunting and fishing, climate change etc. The plastic used by humans has invaded the marine ecosystem and harms sea turtles.
Consequences of Extinction-
1) It affects the delicate balance in the ecosystem as discussed above due to a chain of events.
2) Jeopardizing pollination-
Seventy-five percent of the food crops are pollinated by insects and animals and most of the flowering plants in rain forests are pollinated by animals. The loss of pollinators could result in decrease in seed production eventually leading to extinction of many plants.
Bees pollinate thousands of species of plants like almonds, apples etc. But nowadays a large population of bees have been wiped out due to various human induced factors. The bumble bee has been put on the endangered species list.
3) Endangering of food chain-
Plankton’s which consume carbon dioxide and release oxygen, are vital for marine food chain.Researchers have found that phytoplankton has decreased by 40% globally due to rising sea surface temperatures. This has resulted in the decrease in population of sardines.
Change in plankton quality could be as a result of global warming and pollution.
4) Losing therapeutic riches-
Some of the species that are disappearing might have therapeutic values. Like penicillin was discovered from fungus.
5) Loss of livelihood-
Many industries have been impacted due to the loss of species. The collapse of bee population has affected the honey industry by $ 50 billion.
Some of the endangered species in India-
· Indian Vulture-
From millions the population of the vultures has reduced to a few thousands. This is due to poaching, destruction of habitat and harm brought about by pesticides.
They used to act as natural sanitary workers like removing carcasses, and their decrease would lead to increase in population of wild dogs and rats thereby increasing chances of diseases.
· Bumble bees-
They have faced threats like climate change, pesticides and habitat loss.
Considered as pollinators for a large number of flowers, agricultural crops and plants; the decline in their population is a cause of concern as with decreasing pollination the production of fruits and vegetables would be impacted, thereby affecting food security.
· Sea turtle-
The sea turtles face threat from poaching done for their eggs, meat, skin and shells and also from plastic pollution in oceans.
In sea they carry algae and other organisms that are eaten by fish and shrimps which are further consumed by humans.
If the sea turtles went extinct, both marine and beach would be negatively affected since humans utilize these ecosystems as a natural source for food.
From a population in lakhs at the beginning of 20th century, they are now just 27,000 globally.
They are poached for their horns due to its medicinal properties. Other than this the habitat loss also causes them harm.
They share habitat with a large variety of plants and animal thus protecting the ecosystem which provides food and other essential items for human survival.
Around sixty percent of the world’s tigers are found in India.Poaching and conflict with humans are the reason for decline in their population.
Tigers play a vital role maintaining the ecosystem, being a top predator in the chain. They keep the population of wild animals in check, thereby maintaining the balance between herbivores and vegetation.
How can we protect some of the endangered species?
· Buy organic food because here farmers use natural pesticides for their crops. This is good as synthetic toxic is bad for other organisms.
· Choose sustainable seafood.
· Eat less meat. Non-veg food requires food for feeding the animals and this requires deforestation.
· Avoid products made from endangered species, like ivory, animal skins and tortoise shells.
· Reduce use of plastic. This is consumed by animals both on land and in sea and leads to their death.
· If you have a garden, plant shrubs and flowers that attract pollinating birds and butterflies.
It is our duty to see that all the species are protected and able to survive in our ecosystem. This is a good heritage we would be leaving for our future generations. The balanced ecosystem where everyone thrives is great for this planet. Over exploitation of our natural resources should be always avoided. The planet looks great due to diversity and multitude of species.