Ways to Conserve Ecosystems

By Dawn Marcotte

An ecosystem is formed by the interaction of all the natural organisms in a local environment. This environment may be arctic, tropical, temperate, aquatic or oceanic. Anywhere there are living organisms an ecosystem exits. The growth of human population throughout the world increases the impact on local ecosystems and their interactions with each other to create global results. Reducing this impact and conserving ecosystems is crucial.

Cargo ship in Vancouver Harbour, British Columbia
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human populations must make an effort to live in harmony with natural ecosystems

Urban and Suburban Development

Butterfly IV
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include wildflowers in landscaping for migrating butterflies

Development impacts ecosystems by changing the landscape. These changes can be reversed or minimized by homeowners and landscapers. Choose native plants whenever possible for landscaping around commercial buildings and private homes. Create natural habitats for small animals with indigenous plants. Grow wildflower gardens to create food and way stations for migrating butterflies and birds. Dispose of trash and recyclables in appropriate containers though local recycling programs. Eliminate chemical use on lawns and gardens by using natural substitutes. Choose to live in densely populated, existing developments/cities instead of building on virgin land. Purchase land you'd like to protect from development; do this on your own or by creating a land trust with friends and other concerned parties.

Interdependence

Flood-Gate.
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dams can create unforeseen changes downstream

Ecosystems are interdependent. Building a dam to reduce flooding or provide power may cause unforeseen changes downstream in wildlife and plant growth. Fish may no longer be able to travel upstream to spawn in that river, reducing their populations. Plants dependent on regular flooding will not grow when that flooding is eliminated. The animals relying on them, as a food source, will be unable to find food and thus the entire food chain may be impacted. Any project that changes water systems should be studied extensively before making changes. Monitor local projects as they are proposed and promote appropriate research on their impacts. New development, rezoning and park design are only a few of the areas that can impact a local ecosystem if not properly managed.

Energy Impacts

windmills
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energy from the wind can be used to reduce our carbon footprint

The use of fossil fuels and other energy resources have a significant impact on many ecosystems. The mining process impacts local resources near mines, while consumption has a more global impact from carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. Reduce carbon footprints by integrating renewable energy resources, such as solar or wind power, in new building construction, both commercial and private; retrofit existing buildings. In addition, audit existing structures for energy and resource improvements such as replacing light bulbs or water faucets with more efficient models.

Solar and wind resources need additional research to refine and improve their power generation before they can replace fossil fuels entirely; write your congressperson to urge him or her to allocate funding and resources for this type of research.

Recreation

Nature travel photographer woman
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take photos of nature rather than taking souvenirs

Participate in local and national conservation efforts by donating time or money to help maintain national and state parks and reserves. Follow a "leave no trace" policy when enjoying natural areas. Take pictures of interesting items when hiking or enjoying the outdoors, but don't remove any plants or insects from their natural habitats.