The principles of conservation have created a global movement towards sustainable living and protecting the wellbeing of our planet.
The three primary types of conservation practiced are environmental conservation, wildlife conservation, and ocean conservation. All types of conservation are completely distinct yet interconnected in one way or another.
The conservation movement has created a shift in the perspective that we have towards our environment and has instilled values that aim to preserve and protect nature from harm caused by humans. The prospect of successful conservation practice is achieved by local and international efforts to build a sustainable future.
Organizations like the National Wildlife Federation and the Environmental Defense Fund recognize the three primary types of land conservation that exist and encourage people and governments all over the world to practice them sustainably.
The practice of environmental conservation is the broadest type of conservation and has the most global impact on society.
It’s often easy to forget how much of a ripple effect our daily environmental footprint has on a planetary scale. When we commute in our cars to work, water our lawns, or watch TV, some form of environmental impact is occurring. Whether it’s a minimal or major effect, it all adds up - and at the end of the day, it’s causing some form of harm.
Luckily, as technology advances and human ideologies move further towards sustainable living, many of the harmful environmental practices we’ve relied on throughout history are being mitigated and in some cases even reversed!
Let’s dive into some ways that environmental conservation is utilized.
Climate change is perhaps the biggest threat that we are facing as a species and there is no bigger contributor to this environmental crisis than air pollution.
With our reliance on gasoline-powered vehicles and the global, industrial plunder of natural resources, massive amounts of carbon dioxide are being pumped into our air every day, which is leading to the degradation of our ozone layer.
This dangerous situation is being combated by governments all over the world by introducing a carbon tax on businesses and industries - with the end goal of significantly lowering carbon emissions. Moreover, industry leaders like Tesla are taking the initiative to revolutionize energy use and transportation to eliminate massive carbon emissions altogether.
The careless dumping of industrial waste and reckless practice of unsanitary farming has led to many of our rivers, lakes, and reservoirs polluted.
When we contaminate our freshwater channels, we are destroying the habitat of millions of aquatic species and jeopardize an essential source of drinking water. This then creates a domino effect of environmental damage that eventually ends up in the world’s oceans and affecting people’s livelihoods everywhere.
It’s easy to forget that just 3% of the water on Earth is fresh water and just over 1% of it is safe for drinking, which is why it is absolutely essential to protect our fresh waterways. To ensure this, local and federal governments keep a close eye on the quality of water and take punishable action towards water pollution contributors.
While the industrial complex is responsible for much of our planet’s water pollution, poor habits such as littering are also major culprits in this scheme. So, be sure to dispose of your waste properly and do your part in making sure that trash ends up in the right place.
We have a long history of deforestation, which, unfortunately, is an ongoing crisis.
In the United States and much of the western world, this practice has been approached much more conservatively in the past century. The shift from cutting down all of our trees for economic prosperity has been fundamental in creating institutions like the National Park Service and protecting many of our natural wonders.
Deforestation is a major issue in places like the Amazon Rainforest where trees are being burned and cut at a rampant pace. This majestic rainforest is often referred to as ‘the lungs of our planet’, as it is responsible for producing 20% of the Earth’s oxygen - making it vital for mitigating climate change. In addition, it’s home to over 3 million species and is the most biodiverse place on the planet.
By preserving our forests we secure the livelihoods of countless species ranging from trees, fungi, fauna, flora, and wildlife. Responsible forestation preserves the integrity of nature and allows us to enjoy outdoor, recreational activities.
Land & Soil Conservation
With practically all of the food that we eat having some form of roots to the ground, preserving the health of our soil is detrimental.
The soil that grows our food is home to billions of microbes and micro-organisms that life cannot flourish without. The health of our soils is ensured through sustainable farming practices.
We’ve learned the hard way that by not taking care of our soil we put this vital food source at serious risk. In the past, farmers that have carelessly planted crops have seen first-hand what soil degradation looks like.
It’s due to mistakes like these that we’ve lost critical topsoil and damaged land that can be next to impossible to fix. We’ve only been experiencing soil degradation like this since the rise of industrial farming.
To keep the health of our soil intact, farmers use tactics like these to keep their land healthy.
- Crop rotation
- Buffer strips
What we’ve found through trial and error is that the more natural the farming practice, the better it is for the soil. This notion has led many farmers and consumers to adopt organic food as an alternative to soil degradation and to encourage sustainable living.
Whether it’s due to urban development or the expansion of farmlands, no one pays the price more than our wildlife. This has led to the loss of countless species worldwide and environmental damage that can never be reversed.
The practice of wildlife conservation combats this environmental issue by creating protective regulations and allocating land that is free of human development; ensuring the health of millions of plant and animal species.
Every species on this planet plays a role in the circle of life, which is why it is so crucial to keep as many species from extinction from the cause of humans. To understand the importance of wildlife conservation, we have to take a close look at the ways in which wildlife affects our lives and the role they play in preserving a healthy ecosystem.
Balance and Stability
When you are at the top of the food chain like we are, it becomes easy to forget how fragile the hierarchy of species on this planet really is. Breaking just one link in the chain can have repercussions that may jeopardize an entire ecosystem.
With that being said, wildlife conservationists monitor the health of our planet’s plant and animal species very closely. A critical area of focus is an ecosystem’s key species.
There are certain species that are vital for the health of an entire ecosystem and are fundamental in the practice of wildlife conservation.
Normally at the top of the food chain, predators are essential for controlling the population balance of an ecosystem. With the absence of predators, animals that are generally preyed on are free to confidently roam and multiply at an unsustainable pace.
A key example of this was during the extinction of wolves within Yellowstone National Park. During their absence, the deer population became exceedingly high and they were able to roam the park without fear of predators. This led to them having access to vegetation that they would normally never approach.
When wolves were successfully re-introduced to the park the results were remarkable. The population of the deer was restored to a balanced and healthy state and vegetation in parts of the park was less accessible to them. So much so that this actually changed the way the rivers flowed in the park.
Much like the negative effects deer had on river flow in Yellowstone National Park, they can also affect the ecosystem in a positive way.
Herbivores control the growth of plants all over the world and often secure the ecosystem’s natural state. Without herbivores present to control the population of plants, forests would take a different form, which can lead to inaccessibility for other species to roam the forest for food and utilize it as shelter.
In addition, the natural composting that occurs from herbivores is a major contributor to nourishing the soil and ensuring the health of plants for generations to come.
Perhaps one of the most vital key species on the planet is the honey bee. It’s mindblowing to even consider that bees are responsible for pollinating roughly one-third of all of our food! We are so dependant on the movement of bees that their disappearance would greatly disrupt the global food supply of natural products.
Bees are not only responsible for securing our food but also pollinate millions of plant species, which enables food for other animal species.
The disturbing fact about bees is that their population is declining fast. Viruses are being located in bee colonies in the U.S. and much of Europe, which is taking a dangerous toll.
The frightening notion of losing our bees has wildlife conservationists and scientists scrambling for a solution.
A key species classified as an engineer generally creates some sort of physical change in the environment - shifting the ecosystem entirely.
Wetlands are often created due to the activity of beavers. By building dams they alter the flow of rivers and then the overflow leads to wetlands.
Having such a critical role in the environment, the beaver is able to not only change the nature of a river’s ecosystem but actually able to create an entire wetland ecosystem single-handedly.
As we became more environmentally conscious and began practicing wildlife conservation, it became clear we were creating a platform for local and international tourism.
No one travels for leisure to sit in a parking lot or visit an industrial complex. The plant and animal species that we’ve successfully been able to protect attracts visitors from all over the world and bring joy to millions.
The national parks we’ve set up have built a reputation for our lands and preserved the beauty of our nation. In addition, the economic benefits for tourism in the U.S. alone are enough reason to practice wildlife conservation.
The U.S. generated over $1.5 trillion from travel and tourism in 2017 and the industry supports almost 8 million jobs. The preservation of our wildlife is a calling for visitors to enjoy the beauty of our nature and to support our economy.
There are certain underdeveloped countries in the world that are entirely dependant on ecotourism and the preservation of their wildlife.
Ocean conservation is the practice of protecting and preserving the health of our oceans.
The ocean is home to millions of species and is the primary source of food for billions of people on the planet. With so many environmental risks affecting the health of our oceans, there is serious cause for concern for what ocean habitats will look like in the coming years.
Marine life is in a dire state and to understand why we’re going to take you through why ocean conservation is so important.
Climate change is without a doubt the largest threat to life in our oceans. With ocean temperatures on the rise, marine life is struggling to cope with the change.
Marine life is quite delicate and the temperature rise of just a degree can make a huge difference in the livelihoods of millions of species.
All over the world, there is an epidemic happening within our coral reefs. The whitening of corals left marine biologists puzzled for years until a direct correlation with ocean temperatures was found to be the cause.
With coral reefs being another key species, the health of an entire oceanic ecosystem is dependant on them for survival. These reefs provide shelter and are the food source for countless marine species. Their degradation will be catastrophic for fish populations and other marine animals.
For all of human history, the ocean has been one of the most vital food sources on the planet. To this day 3 out of 7 people still get the majority of their food from it.
With our own population on the rise and the demand for seafood headed in the same direction, overfishing has become a major issue - especially when done on an industrial scale.
Careless fishing tactics and unsustainable levels of demand are driving many species into extinction and are putting this vital food source at high risk for developing countries. Most of the world is responsible for this issue but fishing giants like the ones in China and Japan have a particularly bad reputation for violating international fishing rights.
It’s due to industrial fishing that over 70% of our planet’s shark population has completely disappeared.
Another major area of focus for ocean conservationists is the alarming amount of pollution that is entering our seas. It’s estimated that by the year 2050 we will have more plastic in the ocean by weight than fish.
It’s due to horrific facts like these that ocean conservationists are urging people all over the world to take action. Here’s how:
- Ban single-use plastics
- Proper recycling
- Proper waste disposal
- Beach cleanups
Non-biodegradable waste not only ruins beaches and ocean aesthetics but also is responsible for the unnecessary killings of marine life; sea turtles, sea birds, and fish very often get entangled in plastic debris. In addition, many of these species mistake plastic waste as food and end up dying due to digestion complications.
What is now considered one of the biggest causes of pollution in our oceans actually comes from fishing. Nets and other fishing gear make up a huge amount of the waste in the sea and are a major contributor to harming marine life.
With that being said, responsible waste disposal is still a must to prevent this ongoing problem.
About THE AUTHOR
James Parker has a Masters degree in Sustainability with a focus on land management, permaculture and regenerative agriculture. He also has experience managing sustainability projects, and is passionate about conservation and sustainability.Read More About James Parker