by: Allison Cheng
“Each species is a masterpiece, a creation assembled with extreme care and genius.”E.O. Wilson
Did you know that tiny krill can have as much of an impact on the environment as their massive whale predators? Or that removing either from their ecosystems can create a fatal domino effect, in which the absence of just one species can impact all other species in the food chain? Without biodiversity in our world, the Earth and its inhabitants cannot survive. Both predators and prey must be present to keep each other’s populations in check and enhance their environments.
Take the beaver, for example. By constructing dams, beavers reshape their environment by creating ideal habitats for aquatic animals and plants and increasing species populations. Furthermore, these dams improve water quality, recharge underground drinking water aquifers, ameliorate water shortages by stabilizing the water table, reduce flooding, and act as a sponge to reduce erosion. However, without these semiaquatic keystone species, we would lose the benefits they bring and struggle under fewer species, decreased biodiversity, and water issues. Beyond beavers, wildlife loss hurts human needs because we rely on wildlife and biodiversity-based resources for food, housing, livelihoods, and more.
Where is the Wildlife?
Wildlife is all around us! At the Palo Alto Baylands, this includes the endangered Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse and the near-threatened Ridgway’s Rail, Curlew Sandpiper, and Loggerhead Shrike. At the Foothills Nature Preserve, one can find the endangered Coast Redwood, threatened California Banana Slug, and vulnerable Gorgon Copper Butterfly.
Unfortunately, as the 2020 Living Planet Report illustrates, birds, amphibians, mammals, fish, and reptiles have declined by an average of 68% since 1970.
What is World Wildlife Day?
Celebrated annually on March 3rd by conservationists across the globe, World Wildlife Day aims to celebrate and raise awareness of Earth’s diverse flora and fauna. The date, March 3rd, marks the anniversary of the signage of the 1973 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Today, World Wildlife Day is known as the most important global annual event for wildlife.
This year’s theme is Recovering Key Species for Ecosystem Restoration, which aims to promote the conservation of endangered species.
Over 8,400 plant and animal species are listed as critically endangered under the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. Almost 30,000 more are believed to be endangered or vulnerable. In total, over one million species are estimated to be threatened with extinction. Fortunately, the increased awareness and action for wildlife protection brought by World Wildlife Day can support increased biodiversity and ensure a future for our world.
Denchak, Melissa. “Keystone Species 101.” NRDC, Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 9 Sept. 2019, www.nrdc.org/stories/keystone-species-101.
“Safeguarding Key Species for Ecosystem Restoration.” Official Website of UN World Wildlife Day, wildlifeday.org/.
“World Wildlife Day.” WWF, World Wildlife Fund, www.worldwildlife.org/pages/world-wildlife-day?utm_source=wildlife.day&utm_medium=redirect&utm_campaign=day-TLD-promo.