Losing wildlife triggers collapse of ecosystem

'Habitat loss, over-harvesting, climate change' top three threats wildlife facing today, says expert

Burak Bir   | 03.03.2020
Losing wildlife triggers collapse of ecosystem


With all species of the world are connected through complex systems such as food webs, losing wildlife would bring on the collapse of the entire ecosystem, according to an expert.

"As we lose wildlife, we lose these connections, and the web begins to collapse. The loss of one species causes the loss of another species that depends on it," Jennie Miller, senior scientist at the U.S.-based conservation organization Defenders of Wildlife, told Anadolu Agency.

Speaking on the occasion of World Wildlife Day celebrated on March 3 under the theme of Sustaining all life on Earth, which encompasses all wild animal and plant species as key components of the world's biodiversity, she said the world cannot be imagined even without bees, wolves or coral.

"In many places, these species are already gone, and we can measure the gaps: less pollination, so less fruit; more deer and more vehicle collisions; lifeless tropical reefs with collapsing fisheries."

On Dec. 20, 2013, at its 68th session, the UN General Assembly proclaimed March 3 as UN World Wildlife Day to celebrate and raise awareness for the world’s wild animals and plants. World Wildlife Day has become the most important global annual event dedicated to wildlife.

Habitat loss, over-harvesting, and climate change are the top three threats the wildlife is facing today, Miller said.

Human beings, who Miller says is the main threat to the wildlife, have caused all three by excessive hunting and fishing, as well as by producing too much greenhouse emission.

This is why, she said, the world is in a "period of the Anthropocene" as scientists say, referring to humanity's "greatest" influence on the planet and environment.

'World entering sixth mass extinction'

Defending the claim that the earth is now entering the sixth mass extinction, Miller stressed that as many as one million species on the planet are at risk of extinction due to human pressure.

"Our wildlife disappears and our planet’s climate transforms. We will live in a completely different world, with fewer wildlife, who live mixed up in different communities and different locations," she said, referring to the worst-case scenario if the ongoing threats continued to cripple wildlife.

She went on to say that how the worst-case scenario would affect people and how they would be able to survive is "very uncertain".

Even in the best scenario, where people live now, ecosystems have large gaps of missing species, and people have to step in to provide the missing connections, Miller stressed.

"But there’s a message of hope here: If we choose, we humans can wield our intelligence and technology to recover wildlife," she said.

Touching on a possible solution to prevent further loss of wildlife and to recover the ecosystem, Miller said there are so many things everyone can do to help wildlife such as avoiding plastics that pollute the world and harm wildlife.

"Transform your home and community space into a wildlife-friendly area. Replace lawns with native gardens with plants that support pollinating insects, birds, and mammals. Learn about the species in your backyard by watching wildlife, and serve as a citizen scientist by submitting your data on eBird and iNaturalist."

eBird, launched in 2002, is an online database of bird observations that provide scientists, researchers, and naturalists with real-time data about bird distribution. Founded in 2008, iNaturalist is a citizen science project built on the concept of mapping and sharing observations of biodiversity across the globe.

Miller also suggested that people should speak to government officials and authorities about their concerns over wildlife as well as sharing their concerns through an organization.

"By protecting wildlife, we safeguard ourselves by protecting the ecosystems that create the vital resources we depend on," she concluded.

The special place of wild plants and animals in their many varied and beautiful forms as a component of the world’s biological diversity will be celebrated as part of this year's World Wildlife Day, according to its official website.

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