Discussion: Ecology and Biodiversity

How much impact can the loss of one species actually have on an ecosystem (the other living organisms and natural features in a given area)? After all, most species have become extinct during the history of life on the Earth. As you explore this week’s resources, you may gain a stronger understanding of how the loss of a species can impact the survival of other species. Biologists that study ecology have discovered that the decrease or loss of particular species has a much greater impact on an ecosystem than the decrease or loss of other species. Species with a much stronger influence in their ecosystems are called keystone species.

For this week’s Discussion, you explore and analyze one keystone species, the gray wolf, and its influence on the ecosystem in and around Yellowstone National Park in the United States. Then, based on your analysis, you recommend a policy to benefit this particular ecosystem.

Write a 1- to 2-paragraph response in which you complete the following:

  • State whether or not you agree that your colleague’s recommendation is a good one.
  • If you agree with your colleague’s recommendation, add support to his or her suggestion. If you disagree with your colleague’s recommendation, provide support for your position.

Post #1

An ecosystem is the biological community of organisms in an environment consisting of the physical and chemical factors. “There are many examples of ecosystems — a pond, a forest, an estuary, a grassland. The boundaries are not fixed in any objective way, although sometimes they seem obvious, as with the shoreline of a small pond. Usually the boundaries of an ecosystem are chosen for practical reasons having to do with the goals of the particular study” Courtesy Global Change: University of Michigan https://globalchange.umich.edu/globalchange1/current/lectures/kling/ecosystem/ecosystem.html. And taking the Yellowstone National park and its surrounding communities as a case study the wolves (keystone species) needed to be reintroduce after being exterminated for politically and economically motivated reasons. The return of the wolves served as one major achieving policy towards maintaining biodiversity in and around Yellowstone Nation Park for which it was established.

Even though the reestablishment or the return of the wolves brought along with them the restoration of other organisms life their population if not controlled may result in the extinction of other population or species: the Elk for example, on which they prey.

“An endangered species is a plant or animal in danger of becoming extinct throughout all or a significant portion of its range” National Park Serviceshttps://www.nps.gov/moja/learn/education/classrooms/upload/MDD-Unit-VIII-Endangered-Species.pdf. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service is the responsible managers of US Endangered Species Program by developing and maintaining the country’s federal list of these group of organisms.

Jaguar conservation depends on neighbour attitudes.

For the main reason of achieving the goal of protecting and encouraging the population growth of threatened species from extinction, Governments and law enforcement bodies are faced with promulgating or passing a law (Enacted 1973 Endangered Species Act ‘ESA’ of The United State) against such activities that will motivate the complete or total loss of endangered or organisms at high risk of becoming extinct.

The historical extinction rates can be measured by estimation on looking at the life span of species in the fossil records which current rates can be estimated by counting the number of species known to be lost or endangered: Biology: Science for Life 5th edition chapter 15 page

336-337, by C. Belk and V. B Meier.

This brings us to consider what the defined causes of extinction are, and what can be done to prevent it. The following are excerpts fromhttps://people.uwec.edu/jolhm/EH4/Extinction/CausesLink.html

“Natural Causes of Extinction

Climatic Heating and Cooling

Climate Change is caused by a number of things. The effect that climate has on extinction is very big. The biodiverse Earth can’t keep up with the rapid changes in temperature and climate. The species are not used to severe weather conditions and long seasons, or a changing chemical make-up of their surroundings. As more species die, it is only making it more difficult for the survivors to find food. The warmer climates we are used to present-day are perfect for diseases and epidemics to thrive.

Changes in Sea Levels or Currents

The changes in sea levels and currents is a result, in part, of the melting freshwater. The denser, saltier water sinks and forms the currents that marine life depends on. Ocean floor spreading and rising also affects sea level. A small rise in the ocean floor can displace a lot of water onto land that is already occupied. The gases from the volcanic activity can also be absorbed by the water, thus changing the chemical composition, making it unsuitable for some life.

Asteroids/Cosmic Radiation

Asteroids hit the earth with extreme force. The reverberations can be felt around the world. The impact site is completely destroyed.
Cosmic Radiation is radiation being emitted from outer space and the Sun. It is hypothesized that being exposed to too much cosmic radiation can mutate genes, which can potentially weaken a species’ genepool in the future. Since the radiation comes from space and the Sun, it is extremely difficult to avoid the radiation. Supernova remnants is one source of cosmic radiation.

Acid Rain

Acid rain forms when sulfur dioxide and/or nitrogen oxides are put out into the atmosphere. The chemicals get absorbed by water droplets in the clouds, and eventually fall to the earth as acid precipitation. Acid rain increases the acidity of the soil which affects plant life. It can also disturb rivers and lakes to a possibly lethal level.


Each species has defense mechanisms like immunities and the ability to fight disease. With the changing climate and landscape certain species are losing their ability to fend off disease. They are becoming more susceptible to disease and epidemics, which can lead to their eventual extinction.

Spread of Invasive Species

Invasive species invade foreign territory. They use resources that the other species depend on. Once competition gets too great, the survival of the fittest plan will begin, and one of the species, usually the natural one, will die off.

Natural factors usually occur at a slower rate than human factors and therefore cause a lower extinction rate. Human activities occur at a faster rate and cause higher extinction rates. Human activities are mostly responsible for the present extinction rates.

Human Causes of Extinction

Top Human Causes of Extinction

Increased human population
Destruction/Fragmentation of Habitat
Climate Change/Global Warming

Extinctions caused by humans are generally considered to be a recent phenomenon. HOWEVER:

In Australia—earliest humans: 64,000 years ago; extinction–30,000-60,000 years ago

In the Americas—80% of large animals became extinct around the same time as first human presence there.

Based on these, and other studies done by The international Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), human induced extinctions are not necessarily a new phenomenon. However, extinction by humans today is becoming much more rapid.

The rapid loss of species today is estimated by some experts to be between 100 and 1,000 times higher than the natural extinction rate, while others estimate rates as high as 1,000-11,000 times higher.

Habitat Degradation

Habitat loss and degradation affect 86% of all threatened birds, 86% of mammals and 88% Of threatened amphibians.

Climate Change and Global Warming

John W. Williams from UW-Madison suggests that changes in regions such as the Peruvian Andes, portions of the Himalayas and southern Australia could have a profound impact on indigenous plants and animals

Williams and his research partners used computer models to estimate how various parts of the world would be affected by regional changes consistent with the IPCC’s climate models.

Their findings indicated that “By the end of the 21st century, large portions of the Earth’s surface may experience climates not found at present and some 2th century climates may disappear.” ”

We all need to follow the under listed recommendations to work towards maintaining biodiversity as they worked for the Yellowstone National Park and the surrounding, so shall it work for all since so many of our acts result in risking extinction of species though our lives depend on it:

  • Reducing the use of fossil fuels,
  • Reducing the impact of meat consumption,
  • Reduce the rate and amount of pollution.
  • Managing human population growth and the attendant habitat destruction and fragmentation,
  • Educating the masses,
  • Reducing activities of introduced species to local environments,
  • Encouraging the Nitrogen Cycle

And many more. Information that can detail ways of attaining biodiversity from http://www.sheknows.com/pets-and-animals/articles/808030/how-to-prevent-the-extinction-of-critically-endangered-animals

Post #2

Yellowstone national park is one of the world’s largest ecosystems (Yellowstone geographic, 2012). It is over 28,000 square miles and home to more than 300 animal species which include more than 60 different mammals, 225 species of birds and 18 types of fish (National park service, 2017). Most of the park sits on a geothermal hotspot. This hotspot provides the heat needed to drive geothermal phenomenon’s such as geysers, hot springs and volcanic activity.

Predators control ecosystems. When wolves chase elk it forces the elk to become stronger and faster. The elk in turn aerate more soil which promoting grass growth(Missionwolfe.org, n.d.). Since the elk are moving more they are not able to graze in one area for an extended amount of time. This gives the trees a chance to fully recover between migrations. Â Since wolves were re-introduced to Yellowstone the coyote population has decreased (Missionwolfe.org, n.d.). This means there are less coyote consuming rodents. This gives endangered species such as osprey and bald eagles an opportunity to consume more prey which has helped to increase their reproduction and population (Missionwolfe.org, n.d.). Sometimes starting ecosystem recovery at the top with predators benefits the whole system.

My recommendation for protecting the ecosystem of Yellowstone national park is to start with public awareness education about the importance of a well-balanced ecosystem. A 20-mile protection zone around the park for wildlife should be created to protect the wildlife of Yellowstone from hunters, as well as public awareness of the importance of the protection zone. There also needs to be strict laws in place with serious consequences for anyone found hunting within the protection zone.

One barrier that may be encountered when trying to establish a protection zone around Yellowstone may be opposition and non-compliance from hunters. A second barrier would be lack of enforcement of the protection zone from wildlife and park commissions in Montana and Wyoming.

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