Conservation: Species interactions and biodiversity

Sumatran Tiger – a critically endangered species (Photo by Rebecca Campbell on Unsplash)

Hey you guys!

Right now I’m participating in a summer school held by University of Gothenburg. Everything is held online and I am participating in their “Biodiversity in Western Sweden” program. It’s my second week now and I learn a lot (and have so much fun, of course!). I just wanna share a little bit of what I learned in the class because I find it very interesting. It is about how the species itself contribute to the biodiversity.

Disclaimer: I am a layman in this topic so please dont refer to my post as your sole source of information. This is solely information and take away that I get from my class. Please do your own research as well 🙂

Okay so first of all, when you think of conservation, what is the first word that came up in your mind?

So during our second discussion session, the lecturers asked us that. Well, as you can see the picture that I used, Sumatran Tiger is the first thing that came up in my mind. Why? Simple. I like cats (big cats are included of course) and I donated for Sumatran Tiger conservation before. Mostly, when we talked about conservation what we have in mind is big mammals or endangered species or those that often appear in the media such as panda, elephants and orang utan.

But have you ever thought about the so-called common species?

For our discussion, we had to read this paper: A case for conserving common species (Frimpong, 2018). This paper elaborate how we overlook common species and interaction between this common species and other species. An example from Frimpong (2018) is the nest construction of bluehead chub, Nocomis leptocephalus. Apparently, the nesting activity done by this species attracts and benefits other species such as rosyside dace (Clinostomus funduloides), blacknose dace (Rhinichthys atratulus), rock bass (Ambloplites rupestris) and so on. However, according to Frimpong (2018), the aquatic strategy in freshwater realm on understanding the importance of positive interdependence among species is not widely known. In addition, conservation of mutualism has become vital as many rare species rely on positive interaction with common species.

There is also lectures and other discussions that we had regarding how birds and big mammals distribute seeds in the region, which I find really fascinating. For example, bigger birds able to bring bigger seeds compared to smaller birds so they can shift vegetation composition in their region. The same case also applied to big mammals. An example from Macdonald et al. (2013) is Rhinos’ feeding behaviour that shift vegetation composition and structure. The fruit removal and seed dispersal by greater one-horned rhinoceros could shift tall grasslands to riverine forest by manuring the seeds of the shade-intolerant common tree Trewia nudiflora into grassland latrines. These latrines become outposts of woody vegetation in a sea of elephant grass. And without the annual mortality of Trewia seedlings by monsoon floods and annual-unpredictable fires, rhino mediated seed dispersal could lead to the succession from grassland to woodland and forest within decades.

Another interesting species interactions that we learned is the re-introduction of wolves in Yellowstone National Park, USA. By influencing the distribution and behaviour of herbivores (the risk of predation influences the spatial distribution and habitat selection also their vigilance), the wolves change the ecosystem in the national park. So, previously they were gone from the park for around 70 years. Because there’s nothing to hunt the deers, their population piled up and they reduced the amount of vegetation in the park. Because of the wolves, the deers’ behaviour changed ie, avoiding certain parts of the park. Then, the areas that they avoided regenerate, means the park had more vegetation. This attracts other species such as birds and beavers. The beavers then built dams, which provided habitat for other species such as otters, reptiles, ducks. Interestingly, the wolves also changed the river due to the regenerating forest and vegetation.

I used to think conservation and biodiversity are basically endangered species, big-overly discussed in media kind of species and species richness. I wont lie, I mostly focus only on animals and never really think about plants and fungi (until this class!). Apparently there are so much more than that! What’s really interesting and often forgettable is that:

all species is equally important.

The ones that we overlook could have a big contribution in saving other species which are threatened or maybe they could also be actually in danger. From this class, I learn that we have so many things to do and how complex the situation is.

Soooo I know that many of you are more expert in this area (well, I am a layman in this topic hehe) and I would love to discuss about it more with you if you like 🙂 So anyway, feel free to connect with me!

Cheers,

Kemmy

Sources of materials that I used in this post can be found on the post itself (you can find and click the link right in the post).

(This post was written during Summer School of Sustainability at University of Gothenburg, Sweden. The summer school was taken while studying the M.Sc. “Environmental Management” at Christian-Albrechts Universität (CAU) in Kiel, Germany)

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