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  • Writer's pictureGuy Brunskill

World Wildlife Day 2022

Updated: Apr 8, 2022

World Wildlife Day – Recovering Key Species for Ecosystem Restoration

Every year on the 3rd of March we celebrate World Wildlife Day - this year’s theme is “recovering key species for ecosystem restoration”. The celebrations will seek to draw attention to the conservation status of some of the most critically endangered species of wild fauna and flora globally and to drive discussions towards imagining and implementing solutions to conserve them.

The definition of keystone/key species are those that help to/have the power to define entire ecosystems simply by performing natural behaviours for survival. Keystone organisms maintain balance and biodiversity through various methods from resource control to ecosystem engineering. From the top to the bottom of the food chain, there are many species, both flora and fauna, that are crucial to the existence of ecosystems, and without them, these ecosystems would collapse.

With the theme of “recovering key species for ecosystem restoration”, we wish to inspire action towards reversing the fate of key species of animals and plants. It is our hope that World Wildlife Day will help chart a path towards a more sustainable future, with the goal of living in harmony with nature.

A drive to Restore Ecosystems

Ecological restoration is the process of assisting the recovery of an ecosystem that has been degraded, damaged, or destroyed. Ecosystems are dynamic communities of plants, animals, and micro-organisms interacting with their physical environment as functional units.

We have chosen five main areas and paired them with an equally important flora or fauna, which play a vital role in our ecosystems in order to better understand and appreciate the importance and functions of these key species. Each example has a huge influence on the recovery of our ecosystem. Their survival is paramount to ecosystems operating at their full capacity, which poses a threat to many other organisms within these ecosystems and certainly has a negative impact on the quality of life on Earth.

Land – Termites

Termites are deemed as soil engineers, and what better name could there be, as they play such a vital role in the functioning of many tropical and subtropical ecosystems. Termites burrow into the ground and in doing so aerate the soil. While they create these burrows, rainwater is allowed to trickle into holes and sink deeper into the ground. As the water flows into the ground, it gathers various nutrients ensuring the ground stays healthy and fertile. Termites feed on cellulose found in all dead and decaying plants, this, in turn, makes the soil more fertile and restores nutrients into the ground.

This inevitably makes it easier for plants to grow and to ensure the soil is healthy and fertile. Termites influence the distribution of natural resources such as water and nutrients in the landscape and, consequently, the diversity of soil microbes, plants and animals.

Ocean – Coral

Coral reefs are some of the most diverse and valuable ecosystems on Earth. They support more species per unit area than any other marine environment, including about 4,000 species of fish, 800 species of hard corals and hundreds of other species that inhibit these reefs. Coral reef structures also buffer shorelines against 97 percent of the energy from waves, storms and floods, helping to prevent loss of life, property damage and erosion.

When reefs are damaged or destroyed, the absence of this natural barrier can increase the damage to coastal communities from normal wave action and violent storms. Despite their great economic and recreational value, coral reefs are severely threatened by pollution, disease and habitat destruction. Once coral reefs are damaged, they are less able to support the many creatures that inhabit them and the communities that live near to them.

Mammal - Elephants

As the largest of all land mammals, African elephants are important ecosystem engineers. They play an important role in balancing natural ecosystems. Elephants help maintain forest and savanna ecosystems for other species and are integrally tied to rich biodiversity. They trample forests and dense grasslands, making room for smaller species to co-exist.

Although these large creatures can be seen as doing more damage than good, there is a lot more than what meets the eye. By elephants constantly being on the move and feeding, they transform landscapes and ecosystems and allow other important creatures and plants to thrive. Without these creatures various ecosystems would become overgrown killing off a number of smaller species.

Flora – Trees

Trees are vital to the planet and their importance cannot be stressed enough. As the biggest plants on the planet, they give us oxygen, store carbon, stabilise the soil and give life to so much of the world’s wildlife. They also provide us with the materials for tools and shelter. Not only are trees essential for life, but as the longest living species on earth, they give us a link between the past, present and future.

It’s critical that woodlands, rainforests and trees in urban settings, such as parks, are preserved and sustainably managed across the world as they play a very important role in our ecosystem. Without trees, there will be a massive imbalance in nature.

Pollinators - Bees

As pollinators, bees play a part in every aspect of the ecosystem. They support the growth of trees, flowers and other plants, which serve as food and shelter for creatures large and small. Bees contribute to complex, interconnected ecosystems that allow a diverse number of different species to co-exist. These important agricultural workers are the primary species that fertilize many edible plants, not only for us humans, but for many other animals as well.

Bees are responsible for pollinating approximately 250,000 plant species. Imagine what would happen to herbivores dependent on these plants if bees vanished!

The planet is currently experiencing a mass extinction of life – one of the six mass extinctions that have occurred throughout Earth’s history.

According to data from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, over 8,400 species of wild fauna and flora are critically endangered, while close to 30,000 more are understood to be endangered or vulnerable. Based on these estimates, it is suggested that over a million species are threatened with extinction

Continued loss of species, habitats and ecosystems also threatens all life on Earth, including us. People everywhere rely on wildlife and biodiversity-based resources to meet all our needs, from food, to fuel, medicines, housing and clothing. Millions of people also rely on nature as the source of their livelihoods and economic opportunities.

What can WE DO to play our part?

Here are 10 easy things one can do to play your small part in restoring the ecosystem.

1. Plant Trees:

A simple yet effective way to restore the natural environment is to plant trees, in your backyard, as part of a restoration project.

2. Rewild:

Rewilding is about letting nature take care of itself to reverse human interference and domestication.

3. Volunteer on a restoration project:

There are plenty of existing restoration projects already underway and conservation groups are always looking for volunteers so jump online and do a search for one closest to you that you can join.

4. Eat less meat:

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations animal agriculture accounts for roughly 14.5% of the world’s greenhouse gases each year.

5. Simplify your home:

Buying fewer clothes and household goods means requiring fewer virgin materials and natural resources.

6. Support green businesses:

From eco-friendly fashion brands specialising in organic cotton essentials to green electricity providers relying on renewables.

7. Buy organic:

Synthetic pesticides and fertilisers applied on farms degrade the soil and impacts the natural environment by killing insects and bees and polluting waterways.

8. Donate to conservation groups:

If you don’t have the time to volunteer, donate to conservation organisations and community groups involved in ecosystem restoration that have proven track records to ensure that these efforts produce the outcomes desired.

9. Choose green investments:

If you have savings or money to invest, make sure to place these funds in fossil-free investments and banks that are committed to green innovations and invest in sustainability-focused companies.

10. Join or organise a beach clean-up

If you live near the coast, join a local beach clean-up and if there isn’t one, organise one and share the event details across your community networks and social media.

Happy World Wildlife Day 2023. Play your part in ensuring the future of our planet. #WorldWildlifeDay2023

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