Ecology and Conservation of Ecosystems

Ecology is the scientific scrutiny of the life processes transpiring in the natural habitat. Conservation biology deals with preserving and managing the entire bio- network in the ecosystems. The study of ecology, ecosystems, and the network of animals dependent on each other has become vital in protecting our world’s biodiversity.

Conservation of Rare/ Endemic/ Red List Species/ EDGE Species

As once common animals, birds, and most conspicuously, amphibians stand on the verge of extinction; it becomes imperative to act expeditiously to save them and their respective biodiversities. Studying such rare/ endemic species aid in understanding their requirements for survival and effectively increasing their population in a controlled manner without affecting the environment. The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species (IUCN Red List) comprises the most extensive inventory of endangered animals. Rare species are uncommon and scarce, and endemic species belong to a defined geographical area. Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) species are often represented by only one surviving member of their genus or species.

Invasive/ Introduced/ Keystone Species and their Habitat

Keystone species are endemic organisms that define the ecosystem by maintaining a healthy and balanced food chain. Introduced species are those that, when introduced into a new environment or ecosystem, strive but cause no harm to the existing ecosystem. But invasive species wreak havoc in the environment they are introduced to, causing significant ecological and economic damage. Invasive species can exert damage by rapidly overpopulating the new environment or by depleting nutrition before the other members can assimilate them. Hence, an acute understanding of a species’ nature and response to different environments is highly recommended before introducing them into an alien environment.

Biodiversity and Biogeography

Biodiversity encompasses the heterogenous life on Earth at all levels, from genes to organisms and their ecosystems, across the evolutionary, ecological, and cultural processes that define life. Biogeography only pertains to the study of geographical patterns of habitats of plant and animal species. Assessing the biodiversity and biogeography of any ecosystem reveals its origins, the distribution of its flora and fauna, and their collective impact on the ecosystem.

Extreme Environments and their Organisms

Organisms residing and flourishing in extremely high temperatures, high pressure, and highly acidic and alkaline conditions are termed extremophiles. The most commonly known extremophiles are the archaea, unicellular organisms thriving in extreme conditions like hot vents (Pyrococcus horikoshii) and sulfurous hot vents (Sulfolobales sp.). The Emperor Penguin of Antarctica, the desert camel, and tardigrades are all examples of extremophiles. Investigating these organisms’ metabolism, anatomy, and physiology yields remarkable information on the survival of organisms in such extreme conditions. However, studying these organisms has become even more imperative due to the global climate changes that threaten to damage their fragile environment and ecosystem.

Population Studies of Species with Data Deficient

Data Deficient (DD) species have been marked as critically endangered by the IUCN. Still, they are included in the Red list due to inefficient data on their taxonomy, population status, or threats and their impacts. Studying these populations to acquire demographic information for sustainable species management is critical for rapid action toward their conservation. Again, the deficiency in data does not always imply the absence of extensive studies on the organism. Hence, transparent publishing and quick dissemination of knowledge are also highly required.

Trophic Ecology and Wildlife Disease Ecology

Trophic ecology refers to studying and investigating the feeding or trophic relationships,i.e., food chains and webs, among organisms in an ecosystem. Trophic ecology studies aid in identifying keystone species, competitive species, and harmful species of an ecosystem. Studying these species help in regulating the environment for higher productivity. Wildlife disease ecology studies the host-pathogen dynamics of wildlife and the emerging infectious diseases that threaten the recovery efforts of endangered species.

Ecosystem Mapping with NDVI

The Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) assesses changes in plant health and vegetation density by quantifying vegetation greenness through red and near-infrared images obtained from the Landsat, Sentinel-2, Pléiades, and SPOT. The measurement is graded on a scale of +1 to -1, with vegetation increasing with increasing values. The lowest values of 0.1 and below represent barren, rocky, sandy areas or frozen wastelands. Moderate values indicate the presence of shrublands or grasslands, while the highest values correspond to temperate and tropical forests and rainforests.

Conflicts in Ecosystem Restoration and Conservation

Ecological restoration is increasingly recognized as a critical tactic for boosting ecosystem service provision and impeding biodiversity loss. Conflicts between local governments, environmentalists, and citizens frequently emerge when conservation initiatives conflict with the requirements of the communities near protected areas. Resource scarcity might encourage parties to a conflict to attempt to secure as much as attainable through violence rather than negotiate reasonably for a shared, albeit smaller, resource allocation. Implementing holistic conservation policies that consider humans and their complex socio- cultural interactions with the environment to combat the impact of climate change on biodiversity loss is essential.

Conservation Economics

Economic activity can have a significant detrimental effect on the natural world. The negative repercussions of human activity, from developed infrastructure to wildlife trade and trafficking, are well documented. But as society has grown more conscious of these costs, individuals have made significant efforts to lessen and eliminate them. In the process, they discovered that thriving ecosystems also have significant economic advantages. The costs and rewards of interacting with the natural environment can be better understood through conservation economics.