Introduction Maintaining diversity within any population is exceptionally important to the sustainability of any ecosystem or environment. The cycle of life shows us that all species have another species that they rely on for several necessities. Some species use other species for sustenance, some for shelter, or hunting skills. The reasons why species rely on each other vary; however, the need is infinitely important. We will discuss why genetic diversity is so important. We will explain why population management and diversity is necessary to the successful survival of every population. Lastly, we will compare and contrast the ex situ and in situ methods of conservation. It is extremely important for humanity to take responsibility for the failings of some ecosystems and this paper allows us to see the ways that we, as humanity, can help to reverse that damage.
Genetic Diversity in Populations Genetic diversity also known as the level of biodiversity simply measures the number of genetic characteristics that the genetic makeup of a particular species consists of. It is different from the term genetic variability as they are many times used alternatively but in reality they are different. So why is genetic diversity so important? It is the basis for the populations of various living species to adapt themselves as the surrounding environment changes. If there is no genetic diversity many of the species will vanish off the face of earth. The environment on the earth changes rapidly and hence with the help of genetic diversity the species possess variations of the alleles that help them to adapt to the changing environment around them. Then, they can produce an offspring that contains the same variation of the alleles (Laverty, 2004). Thus, as the populations keep on growing the genetic changes happen so as to help the species survive. Genetic diversity is important because it is directly related to the biodiversity; the balance between the two is very delicate.
There are drastic repercussions on one if the other is disturbed. Scientists have proven that the genetic diversity within the species affects the amount of diversity between the different species. In the area of adaptability and survival, a very important role is played by genetic diversity. When slight gene changes happen in a particular species the next offspring will have an anatomy that is slightly different from the parent anatomy, but it is necessary to adapt to the changes in the surrounding environment (Laverty, 2004).
Thus these changes help the species to survive and adapt to the changing environment. For any species genetic diversity is also important for healthy reproduction. If the genetic diversity is lacking, there are many chances that the species will face the problem of inbreeding and this might put the entire population at risk. Genetic diversity also increases the immunity of the species toward various diseases that they may attract, but many times diseases themselves reduce the genetic diversity of the species. Because of loss of genetic diversity, the biodiversity of the planet is at risk at present. This is happening because a prerequisite for the adaptation is genetic richness or diversity. When that is absent the species stop adapting to their surrounding environment and fade out in few years or in other words they become extinct (Laverty, 2004). Hence for a species to flourish and sustain in long term it is necessary for the population of the species to keep altering genetically and transferring those changes to the next generation. These slight changes will make sure that they are in synchronization with the surrounding environment. They are free from the fear of extinction, they will have healthy reproduction rates, they will have greater immunity to diseases, and they will be more compatible to the other species of flora and fauna around them. In the country of India, the population of tigers is at risk as of present time because of low genetic diversity. Due to extensive hunting and poaching of the wildlife sanctuaries the population of tigers declined from 20000 to 2000 in just 20 years (Tigers, 2012). It has been scientifically proven that for any species to survive there is a minimum threshold limit for the population that should always be maintained otherwise the species will become extinct. The main logic behind this threshold number is to maintain the genetic diversity. Below that number the genetic diversity starts to decline and the species less sustainable and with the problem of inbreeding the quality of every next generation of the tigers is deteriorated. As currently seen, the population of the tigers in India is on decline. When it comes to plants, the entire category of the food crops are facing problems with genetic diversity. The main reason behind this is the human factor. Because of this loss of genetic diversity, there are several crop failures all over the world. The crops are not genetically suited to cope with the increasing temperatures of the earth. Hence, the scientists are trying to produce genetically modified crops so that the crops can be mass-produced and the human requirement for food can be fulfilled.
Population Management and Diversity The value of population management is important, especially today with the dwindling environments. To save the species, we need to control the populations so one species does not eliminate another species. The population control of both animal and plant life is a management program that must take several issues into consideration before putting the management plan into action. According to the article: Garden of Eden, “the human population has caused a downward spiral of the animal and plant biological diversity” (2008). For us to start the climb back out of this global problem, we need to take several factors into account before managing plants and animals and their environments. Genetics plays an important role in the population management of animals. Small populations and species that do not disperse well (or are constrained by a fragmented landscape from exchanging genes with other populations) can be particularly susceptible to inbreeding depression, which has reduced survival and reproduction of organisms with low heterozygosis. Inbreeding depression arises from a variety of causes, including expression of unfavorable or deleterious alleles, and often leads to lower survival and birth or reproductive rates (Templeton, 1991; Meffe and Carroll 1994; Husband and Schemske 1996). The cost of population management cannot be expensive because of the cost involved in controlling the population. This can be controlled harvesting or capturing and releasing animals in a different area. With plants they want to make sure the biodiversity of their plants is maintained. They do not want one type of plant overcrowding another plant until the other plant does not exist. This can be controlled with expensive chemicals or harvesting of the overcrowding plants.
The benefits of a successful population management system are important. Keeping an environment that is balanced and able to sustain itself is important with all the ecosystems that we have destroyed. With so many environments being destroyed, we need to save as many ecosystems as we can to help our planet survive.
A good example of population management of a species is the Idaho Wolf Management Program that was initiated in 2002. The article (Idaho wolf management, 2012)
States the Idaho wolf plan is patterned after other IDFG big game species plans. Under Department policy, all IDFG management plans must follow guidelines set forth in the IDFG strategic plan called the “Compass.” This program involves a lot of agencies to make this successful.
Another example would be the saving of the Bald eagle population in Oklahoma. This program was started by a private organization that involved bringing local residents in to the picture. The media that was presented to local populations was enough to get people involved in saving these bird nesting sites. These two successful examples use two different ways to achieve the same goals; ex situ and in-situ conservation.
Ex situ Vs. In situ Conservation
Ex situ conservation is the act of protecting endangered species, plants or animals, away from its natural habitat. The endangered species is introduced into a new location or in the care of humans, like at a zoo. One example is the San Diego Zoo. San Diego’s Institute for Conservation Research helps a variety of species of animals and plants. At the San Diego Zoo they breed and have ex situ conservation programs. The Giant Panda is an endangered species. The pandas at the San Diego Zoo have reproduced. In 1999 the two Giant Pandas at the San Diego Zoo gave birth to the first born in North America. Another animal in ex situ conservation is the Condor. The Condor was close to extinction and now there are at least 300 Condors ("San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research", 2012).
An aquarium is a habitat kept for aquatic animals. SeaWorld San Diego conserves a variety of aquatic animals. The most popular are killer whales. Aquariums preserve, conserve, and educate people about endangered species. Botanical gardens preserve endangered plant species. Plant species are cared for and used for scientific research. Education of different plant species includes conservation, sustainability, and environmental issues ("SeaWorld San Diego Conservation", 2012).
In-situ conservation is the conservation of a species of plant or animal in their natural habitat; for example, a reserve or estuary. Reserves are protected and maintained to help a variety of species. A population of species can recover and reproduce. If a species of plant or animal is endangered then ex situ conservation is necessary.
There are several reserves and refuges around the world. These reserves and refuges protect and manage the natural habitat of a variety of species. One reserve which practices in-situ conservation is the Buenos Aires wildlife refuge. This refuge preserves the wetlands and different species of animals ("U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service", 2012). Another reserve in the United States is Yellowstone Park.
Yellowstone National Park is a reserve protecting wildlife and habitat. There are over 1,350 different kinds of plants and some are non-native plants. One protected and important plant species is the Yellowstone Sand Verbena. This plant only grows in Yellowstone’s reserve. Animal species in Yellowstone range from mammals to shrews. A rare animal species protected in the reserve is the Wolverine. This species is declared rare. It is important to protect these types of animals in their natural habitat to help maintain and preserve all of these species of plants and animals ("Yellowstone National Park National Park Service", 2012).
Conservationists believe it is essential to protect species through in-situ conservation for numerous reasons. The first is to protect a population in its natural habitat. Second, protect these species through education and research.
In conclusion, the best thing that humanity can do for our declining populations is to contribute what we can to sustaining the balance of our worldwide environments. Because we have disrupted many ecosystems and populations on this planet, it is our responsibility to regain that balance. We have many organizations and programs available to the public to encourage such behavior. Yet, many people do not understand the underlying lesson that these programs attempt to teach. Our survival, as well as the survival of many species, relies on our ability to conserve and preserve as much as we possibly can. There is much research that goes into the effectiveness of conservation. Now, all we need to do, as humanity, is educate ourselves and act on that knowledge.
Garden of Eden. DOI: www.nps.gov/plants/restore/pubs/restgene/1.htm
Idaho Wolf Management Plan 2008-2012. DOI: fishandgame.idaho.gov/public/docs/wolves/plan08.pd
Laverty, M. (2004). Genetic Diversity. Retrieved from http://cnx.org/content/m12158/latest/
San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. . (2012). Retrieved from http://www.sandiegozooglobal.org/ICR/purpose
SeaWorld San Diego Conservation. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.seaworldcares.com/conservation
Tiger. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.worldwildlife.org/species/finder/tigers/index.html
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.fws.gov/refuges/profiles/index.cfm?id=22530
Yellowstone National Park National Park Service. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.nps.gov/yell/index.htm