Endangered species are species that are at risk of becoming extinct. Each species has different risk factors. Ultimately, we must identify the underlying cause. There are several ways to address the problems that endangered species face. Let’s focus on the work of conservation biologists in order to learn how we protect endangered species for kids.
Endangered species face habitat destruction at an alarming rate. As places that animals and plants live are destroyed or taken over by humans, there is less space for them to live. This post focuses on how to help plants and animals that have had their space taken away (for whatever reason) and the steps conservation biologists take to help these endangered and threatened species get back on their feet and in their habitats.
While conservation biologists have typically focused on conserving habitats for species, that isn’t always possible. In fact, habitat restoration has become a more common practice. Habitat restoration is an attempt to return an area back to its original condition. For instance, restoring farmland to prairie or parking lots into forests.
Habitat restoration isn’t easy. Challenges include incomplete records, invasive species, pollution and more. Invasive species take over an ecosystem. In order to restore the habitat, they must be removed or controlled. Horrible pollution has destroyed habitats and it can take years to clean up pollution and make it a safe habitat again. While restoration efforts happen, many animals benefit from captive propagation programs.
Captive Breeding Programs
These programs bring members of a species into captivity for the sole purpose of breeding. They are provided a safe place to live and reproduce. Many of these programs plan to release animals back into the wild whenever it is possible.
While habitat restoration was ongoing, captive propagation programs prevented extinction. American eagles and Peregrine Falcons are two examples.
These types of programs don’t come without problems of their own. One of them being altering the gene pool for a species.
Sustaining Genetic Diversity
The use of captive breeding programs means the numbers of the species are small. This results in a decrease in genetic diversity. It is imperative that conservation biologists do all they can to maintain as much genetic diversity as possible because it makes species stronger. The three main sources of genetic diversity are mutations, sexual reproduction, and gene flow.
Genetic diversity protects species from disease and harsh conditions. Genetically diverse species are less likely to be wiped out by a single disease or other challenges. In order to sustain genetic diversity, individual animals move between breeding programs. By moving animals, it prevents inbreeding and maintains a more diverse gene pool.
Preserving Keystone Species
Our understanding of keystone species has grown as a result of advances made by conservation biologists. These are species that exert a greater influence on their ecosystem than many of the other species within it. The grey wolf that was re-introduced to Yellowstone is a keystone species. As a result, the entire ecosystem changed and threatened species are beginning to flourish.
Conservation of Ecosystems
Some animals require large areas of land and that land may not be available for reserves any longer. One of the solutions is creating land bridges to connect habitat islands so that species can travel between areas and maintain their genetic diversity.