Environmental science homework

In 1996, a consortium of research institutes, including the Smithsonian Institution, received funding for a research project in the tropical rain forest of Nigeria and Cameroon. The researchers studied the local abundance, distribution, and life cycles of trees and shrubs with medicinal properties in a large segment of forest in Cameroon and in several smaller plots in Nigeria. Researchers searched for beneficial drugs by examin- ing traditional medicines used by local villagers and by mass screening of trees and shrubs. This project, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and several other U.S. government agencies, was an attempt to help develop alter- natives to deforestation. It is believed that cultivation of me- dicinal trees could provide an important source of income to

Preserving Biological Diversity

Biodiversity: Signs of Decline Causes of Extinction and the Decline in Biodiversity Why Protect Biodiversity? How to Save Endangered Species and Protect Biodiversity—A Sustainable Approach Spotlight on Sustainable Development 11-1: Predator Friendly Wool and Wolf Country Beef: You Must Have Read the Label Wrong Spotlight on Sustainable Development 11-2: Debt-for-Nature Swaps Point/Counterpoint 11-1: Preserving Wildlife, Usurping Private Property Rights? Point/Counterpoint 11-2: Controversy Over Wolf Reintroduction

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CHAPTER OUTLINE

CHAPTER 11

The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them.

—George Bernard Shaw

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CRITICAL THINKING

Exercise You own a guest ranch in western Colorado. Your ranch attracts people from all over the world who come to ride horses and view the abundant wildlife such as deer, elk, eagles, hawks, and an occasional black bear. You also raise sheep to supplement your family’s in- come. One day, a neighboring rancher calls on you to ask for your help in killing coyotes, which he says are killing off his sheep and costing him lots of money. What he wants is permission to spread chunks of meat, contain- ing a lethal poison called Compound 1080 on your property. What he is proposing is not le- gal, he freely admits, but it is done from time to time in remote parts of the West. He and other ranchers who want to control coyotes extract the poison from sheep collars—devices placed around the necks of sheep to selec- tively kill coyotes that attack them. Sheep collars are legal. Your neighbor will get the poison and even spread the scraps of meat on your property if you give him permission. He says it will also help protect your sheep herd.

What concerns would you have about this proposal? Make a list of questions you will need to answer before deciding whether to join your neighbor. What critical thinking rules will you use?

local communities. The field work, which ended in 2004, yielded numerous natural chemical com- pounds that could some day be used to treat tropi- cal diseases, mental disorders, and chronic diseases.

This project is one of many efforts designed to save forests and the species that live within them. It is part of an effort to protect the natural environ- ment and provide for the economic needs of peo- ple. As such, it is an example of the new philosophy of sustainable development.

This chapter examines biodiversity—the rich biological world—and new ways of protecting the planet’s wealth of wild species. In the following pages, you will examine the causes of extinction and the countless benefits of plants and wildlife to human societies to help you fully understand the importance of saving species.

Biodiversity: Signs of Decline By some estimates, as many as 500 million kinds of plants, animals, and microorganisms have made this planet home since the beginning of time. Today, scientists estimate that the world contains between 10 and 30 million species. Some put the estimate higher, up to 80 million. Only 1.9 million have been identified and named. Thus, 420 to 490 million species have become extinct over a period of 3.5 billion years.

This tells us that extinction is an evolutionary fact of life. Scientists refer to this as natural extinction. The natural oc- currence of extinction is viewed by many as a justification for plant and animal extinctions occurring today as a result of human activities, known as accelerated extinction. Why not?

Natural extinction differs markedly from accelerated extinction for at least two important reasons. First, natural extinction represents a kind of evolutionary passing. That is to say, many millions of species have become extinct, but they did not disappear. They evolved into new species (FIG- URE 11-1). Their kind may have vanished, but they gave rise to new species. Today, they are represented by their descen- dants. Modern extinctions, on the other hand, eliminate species entirely. They represent a dead end in evolution.

Second, the rate of extinction varies considerably. Even though some species did vanish in mass extinctions because of severe climatic changes or for other reasons, the rate of nat- ural extinction—about one species every 1,000 years—is slow compared with today’s accelerated extinction. Although no one can tell exactly how many species become extinct to- day, estimates based on loss of habitat and species diversity within these ecosystems suggest that it may be as many as 100 to 140 species every day or 36,500 to 50,000 per year. Harvard biologist E. O. Wilson thinks the number may be higher. As a result, many believe that we have entered into an era of extinction unparalleled in the history of the Earth. (For more on the acceleration of extinction and the impor- tance of species, see Point/Counterpoint 4-1.)

Today, thousands of species are endangered or threatened. An endangered species is one that is in imminent danger of becoming extinct. A threatened species is one that is still abundant in its natural range but, because its numbers are declining, is likely to become extinct in time. Without con- certed efforts to protect them, many threatened species will become extinct. How serious is the problem? Today, three- fourths of the world’s bird species are declining in number or threatened with extinction. Moreover, more than two- thirds of the world’s 150 species of primates are threatened. Today, approximately 8,725 species of plants are threatened or endangered—2 of every 100 plant species on Earth accord- ing to the International Union for the Conservation of Na- ture. In the United States, approximately 1,372 species of plants and animals, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, are threatened or in danger of extinction.

Scientists around the world are disturbed by an alarm- ing disappearance of amphibians. Many species of frogs, toads, and salamanders are either experiencing steep de- clines in population size or have vanished. Amphibians are

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196 PART IV. Resource Issues: Solutions for a Sustainable Society

disappearing from a wide variety of habitats—from the jun- gles of Brazil to the suburbs of New York City. The cause is still unknown, but most scientists believe that the decline is the result of a wide range of factors including habitat loss; environmental pollution, such as pesticides; exposure to ultraviolet radiation due to ozone depletion; disease; para- sites; global warming; and others.

Unless we curb population growth, reduce pollution and habitat destruction, and manage our resources better, vast expanses of forests, wetlands, and grasslands will vanish

over your lifetime. Millions of species may vanish as a result. The impact of habitat destruction and mass extinction will be felt worldwide.

KEY CONCEPTS Many species of plants and animals face extinction today as a result of human activities. Although extinction has occurred since the dawn of time, modern extinctions are occurring at a rate much faster than is biologically sustainable.

3 million years ago

7 million years ago

25 million years ago

40 million years ago

60 million years ago Eohippus

Miohippus

Merychippus

Pliohippus

Equus

Foreleg

R ec

en t

P le

is to

ce ne

P lio

ce ne

M io

ce ne

O lig

oc en

e E

oc en

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Tooth

FIGURE 11-1 Gone but not forgotten. This drawing illustrates the stages in the evolutionary history of the horse. All dis- tinct species are extinct except for the mod- ern horse. Like other species, horses evolved through intermediate stages that no longer exist.

 

 

CHAPTER 11: Preserving Biological Diversity 197

Causes of Extinction and the Decline in Biodiversity

Plant and animal extinction, like many other environmen- tal problems, results from many factors. This section exam- ines the two most important factors today: habitat alteration and commercial hunting/harvesting. It also examines other important factors, including (1) the introduction of alien and domesticated species, (2) pest and predator control, (3) the collection of animals for pets and research, (4) pol- lution, (5) ecological factors, and (6) the loss of keystone species.

KEY CONCEPTS

Physical Alteration of Habitat We humans have always altered the environment to meet our needs. Virtually every activity we undertake changes the bi- otic and abiotic conditions of the environment and, hence, the biological communities of aquatic and terrestrial ecosys- tems (Chapter 6). Every product we buy comes with an en- vironmental price tag. Extraction of the raw materials and production of finished products, even the transportation to stores or our homes, for example, causes damage. Some of the most dramatic environmental changes come from activ- ities such as food production, timber harvesting, mining, road building, the manufacture and operation of automobiles, and the construction and maintenance of homes.

In recent years, even illegal immigration has taken a toll on wildlife and its habitat. Along the United States–Mexico border, thousands of illegal immigrants and law enforce- ment officials sent to curb this activity, have caused consid- erable damage to sensitive desert wilderness areas. One area that has been hard hit is the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge in southwestern Arizona, a vast wilderness area that is home to many species including several endangered species. Mountains of trash and physical damage to the environment are causing concern to wildlife officials. Drug smugglers have created roads through these wilderness areas and more than 1,300 miles of foot paths. Parts of wilderness and wildlife refuge fenced off to protect visitors from illegal activities are now being overgrazed by cattle from Mexican farmers.

Human activities tend to fragment the habitat of plants and animals. Human settlements, for example, become islands of human activity in the natural environment. As the human population grows, however, and as roads, highways, farms, and buildings increase in number, the pattern changes: All that is left are a few islands of natural habitat in the human-dominated landscape (FIGURE 11-2). As the natural habitat fragments, species diversity declines.

Habitat alteration ranges from moderate to extreme and ranks as the most significant factor in the extinction of plants and animals the world over. It is no surprise to find that those

Many factors contribute to the loss of species, but the two most important are the destruction and alteration of habitat and commercial harvesting.

11.2

areas of the world that are at risk are regions of the most in- tense human activity.

Nowhere is the loss of habitat more pronounced than in the tropical rain forests. Tropical forests house at least half of the Earth’s species, perhaps more. Rain forests once cov- ered 14% of the Earth’s land surface. Over half of them have been cut down so they cover only 6% today. Countless species have perished as a result. At the current rate of destruction, the remaining rain forests could be gone by mid-century. (Chapter 12 discusses tropical rain forests in more detail.)

Coral reefs, wetlands, and estuaries (the mouths of rivers) are other critical habitats already greatly reduced and rapidly declining because of human development. Wetlands and estuaries, for example, are the home of many species but are also highly prized by humans for development. Dam- age to wetlands has been particularly severe in the industrial nations. New Zealand and Australia, for example, have lost more than 90% of their wetlands and countless species that lived in them. India, Pakistan, and Thailand have lost at least 75% of their mangrove swamps, a type of coastal wetland. Their ongoing destruction threatens the future of fish and waterfowl throughout the world. (For more on wetland destruction, see Chapter 13.)

Another ecosystem that has experienced serious losses is the tallgrass prairie of North America, which today is vir- tually nonexistent. Temperate rain forests, such as those in the Pacific Northwest, have also been subjected to in- tense harvesting. Worldwide, more than 56% of the tem- perate rain forests have been logged or cleared. No more than 10% of the original old- growth temperate rain for- ests remain in the United States. Canadian temperate

FIGURE 11-2 Habitat fragmentation. Humans carve up the natu- ral landscape to make room for cities, towns, farms, and other uses.

GO GREEN

Watch what you buy. Everything we purchase comes from the Earth, often a forest or a field. The more we buy, the more land we take from wildlife. Conscien- tious consumerism helps reduce our impact on wildlife.

 

 

198 PART IV. Resource Issues: Solutions for a Sustainable Society

rain forests have also been heavily cut. One of the many vic- tims of this loss is a bird known as the marbled murrelet. The murrelet feeds on schooling fish that congregate near the shores of Canada, but nests on moss-covered branches of the temperate rain forest within 30 kilometers (18 miles) of the shore. Logging of old growth forests in British Colum- bia has dramatically reduced the habitat of this bird, caus- ing equally dramatic declines in its numbers.

KEY CONCEPTS

Commercial Hunting and Harvesting Humans have hunted and killed animals throughout his- tory to provide food, fur, and other products. Several differ- ent types of hunting occur today. Sport hunting occurs for enjoyment and is generally well regulated. In fact, in many cases sport hunting benefits wild populations by helping to control numbers—so that they remain within the carrying capacity of the environment.

Another form of hunting is subsistence hunting, killing animals to provide food for indigenous people such as those who live in the tropical rain forests. Generally, such activi- ties are carried out on a sustainable level and do not pose a threat to animals, although there are notable exceptions.

The third form of hunting is commercial hunting, or har- vesting. This consists of large-scale efforts, such as the whale hunting of years past, and smaller operations, such as hunt- ing African rhinos for their horns. Smaller operations may be legal or, in some cases, illegal.

Whale hunting is one of the most familiar examples of commercial hunting. In the 1700s and 1800s, commercial whalers hunted one species after another to the brink of extinction to provide oil, meat, and other products. The result has been a severe reduction in whale populations (Table 11-1). Thanks to efforts by the International Whal- ing Commission, commercial whaling has been greatly re- duced. In its place is a new industry: whale watching, with annual revenues that exceed those of the commercial whal- ing industry itself.

Large-scale commercial hunting also doomed the pas- senger pigeon and greatly reduced the size of the bison herds of North America. The world’s fisheries (fishing grounds) have also been heavily harvested for commercial gain, and many important fisheries have been eliminated. Overharvesting continues today in many of the world’s remaining fisheries.

Commercial hunting may also occur illegally, on a much smaller scale. Illegal hunting is called poaching. Today, poachers continue to slaughter elephants, rhinos, tigers, and a variety of other endangered species because the economic benefits outweigh the risks of small fines or light jail sen- tences. A Bengal tiger coat, for example, sells for $100,000

Virtually all human activities alter the environment, changing the biotic and abiotic conditions and fragmenting habitat. Habi- tat alteration is the number one cause of species extinction. The most dramatic changes occur in biologically rich areas: tropical rain forests, wetlands, estuaries, and coral reefs.

in Japan. Poaching of ivory from tusks caused the near demise of African elephants, from an estimated 2.5 million in 1970 to an estimated 300,000 to 600,000 today according to the World Wildlife Foundation.

KEY CONCEPTS

The Introduction of Foreign Species Foreign, or alien, species introduced accidentally or intention- ally into new territories often do well in their new homes be- cause conditions may be highly favorable to their growth and reproduction. One reason for this is that these species may face little environmental resistance—for example, there may be no natural predators to hold their populations in check—in their new home. As their populations expand, alien species often outcompete and eliminate native species. The English spar- row is an example. Deliberately introduced into this country in the 1850s, the sparrow quickly spread throughout the con- tinent. It now competes for nesting sites and food once used by bluebirds, wrens, and swallows. The starling is another in- tentional import from England that has had a similar effect on native North American bird species. The barred owl of North America is yet another example. This native species has spread across the continent, some scientists think, hopscotch- ing from one patch of trees to another on the Great Plains, which was once a vast sea of grass that blocked the westward movement of the owl. It is now a resident of the forests of the Pacific Northwest. The barred owl harasses and preys on spotted owls and takes over their nesting sites. It may even interbreed and could further threaten this species, which is suffering because of the loss of vital old growth habitat.

Commercial hunting and harvesting of wild species have oc- curred for centuries and represent the second largest threat to the world’s animal species. This includes past activities, such as whale hunting, and present activities, such as commercial fish harvesting and poaching of endangered species.

Table 11-1 Whale Populations—Then and Now

Number Before Current Species Commercial Whaling Estimate

Blue 200,000 4,300 Bowhead 54,680 10,500 Fin 450,000 33,200 Gray 15,000–20,000 26,300 Humpback 119,000 63,600 Minke 250,000 761,000 Right 50,000 7,800 Sei (includes Bryde’s) 108,000 38,700 Sperm 1,377,000 360,000

Source: International Whaling Commission

 

 

CHAPTER 11: Preserving Biological Diversity 199

Another introduced species that’s raising havoc in North America is the grass carp, a native of China. Grass carp breed prolifically and are spreading through the rivers, squeezing out native species (FIGURE 11-3).

Alien plants and animals have taken their toll on native species of Canada, too. European starlings have displaced many species. Raccoons that were released on Queen Char- lotte Islands to provide additional income for local trappers have caused significant decreases in a type of sea bird known as an alcid. These burrow-nesting birds form huge vulnera- ble colonies. Raccoons raid the nests for food.

Nonnative plants also outcompete native species. Scotch broom, purple loosestrife, and crested wheatgrass have all been introduced into Canada and now compete aggressively with na- tive species, sometimes wiping them out altogether. Today, 23% of Canada’s wild plants are nonnative species. Islands are especially vulnerable to new species. In Hawaii, for example, 90% of all bird species have been wiped out by human inhab- itants and by organisms (such as rats) introduced by humans.

Alien species often do well in warm climates such as Florida. In fact, Florida is a showcase of alien species gone wild. Australian pines, for example, were introduced as or- namentals and have spread rapidly along coastal beaches and canals. Their shallow roots are so dense that they destroy sandy beaches, where many sea turtles lay their eggs. Worst of all is a species called the punk tree, which grows in swamps, creating a dense tangle of vegetation impassable to many animal species.

The Great Lakes of North America have also been sub- ject to numerous alien invasions, often with devastating eco- nomic and ecological consequences. The latest are the zebra mussel and fishook water fleas, both accidentally introduced by ships carrying cargo from Europe. The zebra mussel was described in Chapter 6. The fishook water flea feeds on phyto- plankton, the main food source of small fish. Besides posing

a threat to fisheries, the flea also has become a nuisance to commercial and sports fishers, clogging nets and lines. It is spreading rapidly throughout the Great Lakes and into sur- rounding waterways, just like the zebra mussel.

The alien invasion is nothing to take lightly. In the United States, a recent study that took 200 scientists 4 years to prepare estimates that 6,500 alien species of plants, ani- mals, insects and arachnids (spiders), and disease organ- isms have gained a foothold in the United States. They have caused 315 native species to become endangered or threat- ened. Although no one knows for sure how much damage alien species cause, one study by researchers at Cornell Uni- versity suggests that the damage in the United States caused by alien plants and animals may be over $120 billion per year! The main problems are predation on native species and habitat destruction.

KEY CONCEPTS

Pest and Predator Control Well-intentioned efforts to control species considered to be pests also affect wild populations of plants and animals, and they contribute to the steady decline in biodiversity on Earth. DDT and other pesticides, for example, have taken a huge toll on American wildlife (Chapter 22). The peregrine falcon had disappeared in the eastern United States by the 1960s as a result of DDT. This pesticide caused eggshell thinning, which made eggs fragile and susceptible to breakage. The en- tire population of falcons east of the Mississippi River was wiped out and dramatic declines occurred in the West, too. Eagles and brown pelicans met a similar fate. Even the Cali- fornia condor, a massive vulture, suffered from eggshell thin- ning. Especially harmful to migratory birds that spend their summer in North America are those pesticides (such as DDT and related compounds) that have been banned in the United States but are still used in Latin America.

Studies suggest that nonylphenols, a nonactive ingredi- ent of some pesticides, may have a deleterious effect on salmon. This near-ubiquitous water pollutant, also found in detergents, cosmetics, and plastics, enters waterways. In the Pacific Northwest, salmon migrating to the sea that are exposed to minute quantities of this chemical perish when exposed to salt water. Researchers believe that nonylphe- nols affect the endocrine system, making salmon unable to produce hormones needed to get rid of excess salt, an adap- tation vital to the transition to oceanic life.

Predator control, once the cornerstone of wildlife management, has had a profound impact on native species such as wolves, bears, and mountain lions in North Amer- ica. Killing off predators can also create severe habitat destruction, as the prey populations once controlled by these predators grow beyond the carrying capacity of their environment.

Plant and animal species introduced into new regions may thrive because of the favorable conditions and low environmental re- sistance. Therefore, they often outcompete and eliminate native species. Islands are especially vulnerable to foreign species.

FIGURE 11-3 Grass carp introduced from Asia reproduce prolifi- cally in many streams in the eastern U.S. and have become a major nuisance.

 

 

200 PART IV. Resource Issues: Solutions for a Sustainable Society

KEY CONCEPTS

The Collection of Animals and Plants for Human Enjoyment, Research, and Other Purposes Each year, millions of animals and plants are gathered from their native habitat throughout the world and exported to zoos, private collectors, pet shops, research institutes, and other places. The numbers are staggering. In 2010, for in- stance, nearly 333,000 live reptiles, and 153,000 reptile skins were legally imported into the United States. That same year, nearly 2,200 live birds were imported into the United States. Tens of thousands of birds are also imported by Canada and Great Britain. For each bird that makes it into someone’s home, though, 10 to 50 may die along the way (FIGURE 11-4) Many perish after they are taken home, too.

Scientists throughout the world use a variety of wild caught primates such as monkeys for research on pressing medical problems such as AIDS. Taken from their home- land in Africa, as many as five chimpanzees die for every one that enters a laboratory. In 1975, the United States banned the importation of all primates for pets but allowed contin- ued importation for zoos and research. Partly as a result,

Chemical pesticides, sprayed on farms and other areas to con- trol insect pests, and predator control programs have had a pro- found impact on native species.

primate imports have dropped rapidly in the United States and elsewhere (FIGURE 11-5). Nonetheless, in 2009, the lat- est year for which data were available, the United States imported over 22,000 primates, down from 28,000 in 2006.

Some rare and endan- gered primates are still cap- tured and sent to the United States. Because research an- imals often do not breed in captivity and because they have a high mortality rate, continual replenishment

from wild populations is likely to continue. As noted earlier in the chapter, two-thirds of the world’s 150 species of pri- mates are threatened with extinction.

Plants are also popular imports. In 2010, 1.8 million live cacti (including some artificially propagated) were imported into the United States from 18 countries, up from 3.8 million in 2003. International trade in exotic flowers, especially those originating in the Mediterranean, is also a booming business and currently threatens many native plant species.

At home, collectors pillage the deserts in Texas and Ari- zona in search of salable cacti to adorn the lawns of cus- tomers. To reduce the ravaging impact of commercial cactus rustling, Arizona has made it illegal to remove 222 different plant species. With penalties up to $1,000 and jail sentences up to 1 year, Arizona has taken a small step to protect its native plants. With only two “cactus cops” to patrol the state, though, little progress can be made.

KEY CONCEPTS

Pollution Pollution plays an important role in the decrease in the planet’s biodiversity and is bound to play a larger role as the human population and economy expand. Today, pollution-caused

Millions of plants and animals are taken from the wild and im- ported into developed countries for zoos, private collections, pet shops, and research, contributing to the worldwide loss of species.

FIGURE 11-4 Nature for sale. In the developing countries, local residents sell birds and animals they catch in nearby forests to dealers who export them, sometimes illegally, to the industrial na- tions. Many animals die along the way.

Year

N um

be r

of p

rim at

es (

in th

ou sa

nd s) 140

120

100

80

60

40

20

0 200019951990 2005 201019851980197519701965

FIGURE 11-5 Decline in the number of primates imported into the United States.

GO GREEN

Do not buy exotic pets such as birds or fish that come from the wild. Check the source very carefully to be sure that they are domestically raised.

 

 

CHAPTER 11: Preserving Biological Diversity 201

problems such as global warming, acid deposition, and ozone depletion are creating major ecological changes. Pollution could combine with other extinction forces described in this chapter to greatly increase the threat to biodiversity. For ex- ample, global warming caused by carbon dioxide pollution from the burning of fossil fuels combined with several other pollutants may be responsible for a massive die-off of the world’s coral reefs, already besieged by sediment from on- shore development, damage from ships, and chemical pollu- tants. Coral reefs contain an estimated 1 million species. By one estimate, 60% of the world’s 230,000 square miles of coral reef could be lost by around 2040 if threats continue.

Global warming caused in large part by human pollu- tants is also taking its toll on the polar bear, a species threat- ened already by numerous other factors, including chemical pollution, hunting, tourism, and oil drilling in its habitat. As Arctic Sea ice melts due to global warming, polar bears have difficulty accessing their food source: seals. Bears that are un- dernourished face difficulty surviving (FIGURE 11-6).

Pollution is also of concern on a local level. In the semi- arid farmland of California’s San Joaquin Valley, the heavy metal selenium—contained in waters draining from irri- gated farm fields into specially built evaporation ponds (FIGURE 11-7) in the Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge— has caused massive biological effects. In 1985, for example, biologists found physical abnormalities in 42% of the chicks of waterfowl and wading birds at Kesterson—compared with an expected deformity rate of 1%. Problems included chicks without eyes, beaks, wings, and legs. Many embryos died. Adult birds and many other animals were also affected— as were crayfish, snakes, raccoons, and muskrats, which once flourished in the rich biological community but now have vanished. As one journalist put it, “The Kesterson Refuge had become a place that killed the animals it was supposed to protect.” (In 1986, the evaporation ponds at Kesterson were filled with dirt.) Federal officials note sim- ilar problems in refuges in Utah, Wyoming, Texas, Nevada, Arizona, and other parts of California. In nonrefuge sites,

they’re proposing costly water treatment facilities to reduce selenium levels, followed by periodic removal of contami- nated sediments from the bottom of the ponds in some locations.

Pollution affects many species the world over. One of them is the already-threatened beluga whales of Canada’s St. Lawrence estuary. Scientists have found that older whales are dying of cancer and that young calves are ingesting poi- sons from their mothers’ milk. Autopsies of dead whales show they are heavily contaminated with 25 different toxic chemicals. Although this is not the only threat to the beluga whale, whose population numbers slightly more than 1,000, it could be a major one.

KEY CONCEPTS

Biological Factors that Contribute to Extinction Not all species are created equal when it comes to extinction. Some species, for instance, are quite adaptable and seem to do well in the human-dominated world. Unfortunately, they’re not always the most desirable species. Pigeons and cockroaches are two examples. Others do not fare so well. Some of these species have peculiarities in behavior or lifestyle that make them more vulnerable to extinction. Others pro- duce so few young that they are not very resilient.

Consider the passenger pigeon (FIGURE 11-8). At one time, the passenger pigeon inhabited the eastern half of the United States in flocks so large they darkened the sky. Prob- ably the most abundant bird species to ever live, the pas- senger pigeon is now extinct, in large part because of

Pollution alters the physical and chemical nature of the environ- ment in ways that may impair the survival of many species. Pol- lution and climate change (caused largely by pollution) may be altering the health of the world’s coral reefs and may cause widespread losses if something is not done to reverse the trend.

FIGURE 11-7 Polluted evaporation ponds. Selenium and other toxic metals, leached from irrigated farmland and carried to nearby evaporation ponds (now closed), have resulted in a number of embryonic defects.

FIGURE 11-6 Newly endangered. Polar bears are threatened by several pollutants, including greenhouse gases, which are causing global warming, which is melting polar sea ice.

 

 

202 PART IV. Resource Issues: Solutions for a Sustainable Society

widespread commercial hunting and habitat destruction. Between 1860 and 1890, countless pigeons were killed and shipped to the cities for food. In 1878, the last colonial nest- ing site in Michigan was invaded by hunters. When the guns finally fell silent, over 1 billion birds had been killed. By this time, only about 2,000 remained. Broken into flocks too small to hunt economically, the birds were finally left alone. Did they recover? No. The number of birds dwindled year after year, until in 1914, the last bird held captive in the Cincinnati Zoo died.

This story illustrates an important point: Some species have a critical population size below which survival may be impossible. The passenger pigeon needed large colonies for successful social interaction and propagation of the species. Two thousand birds were simply not enough.

Scientists know very little about the critical population size for many species. Unfortunately, overhunting, habitat de- struction, and other activities discussed in this chapter can do irreparable damage before we realize it.

Another trait that influences an organism’s survivabil- ity is its degree of specialization. Animals may be catego- rized as specialists or generalists. Specialists tend to be more vulnerable than generalists. Why? Generalists can exploit more food sources and can live in more habitats than special-

ists. They are more adaptable and, consequently, less vul- nerable to habitat destruction and other forces.

Animal size also contributes to extinction. Larger animals such as the rhinoceros are easier (and often more desirable) prey for human hunters. Moreover, they are more likely to com- pete with humans for desirable resources such as grazing land. Larger animals also generally produce fewer offspring, making it more difficult for reduced populations to recover. The Cal- ifornia condor, for example, lays a single egg every other year. Young condors remain dependent on their parents for about 1 year but are not sexually mature until age 6 or 7. Combined, these factors give the condor little resiliency to withstand pres- sures from human populations or natural disasters.

Another factor in extinction is the size of an organism’s range. The smaller the range, the more prone the organism is to extinction.

KEY CONCEPTS

The Loss of Keystone Species According to ecological theory, in some ecosystems the ex- tinction of one critical species, known as a keystone species, may lead to the loss of many other species. For example, the gopher tortoise in the southeastern United States is a keystone species (FIGURE 11-9). Gopher tortoises are important because they dig long burrows in the sand, up to 400 feet long and 30 feet deep, that many other species share. The Florida mouse becomes a permanent resident, as does the gopher frog. Opossums, gray foxes, and indigo snakes frequent the

Many biological characteristics of organisms determine how vul- nerable they are to human impacts on the environment, such as the number of offspring they produce, the size of their range, their tolerance for people, and their degree of specialization.

FIGURE 11-8 Museum specimens. The passenger pigeon, a once abundant species whose flocks darkened the skies, is extinct in large part because of commercial harvesting.

FIGURE 11-9 Gopher tortoise. This slow-moving tortoise is a keystone species in the southeastern United States. Its burrow is home to many other species.

 

 

CHAPTER 11: Preserving Biological Diversity 203

burrows as well. The gopher tortoise is so important, in fact, that in areas where it has been eliminated, 37 species of invertebrates have disappeared.

Fig trees are a keystone in the tropical rain forests of Peru. Studies of plant communities in these forests show that three-fourths of the birds and mammals of the Ama- zonian rain forest rely on fruits. Most fruits, however, are avail- able only 9 months of the year. During the remaining period, monkeys, peccaries, parrots, and toucans live on figs. Their loss would be devastating.

In the marine ecosystem in the U.S. Pacific, the sea ot- ter is a keystone species. Sea otters are voracious eaters, feed- ing on sea urchins, abalone, crabs, and molluscs that inhabit kelp beds. The otter helps control sea urchin populations, which feed on kelp and seaweed. In locations where sea ot- ters have been eliminated, kelp beds have disappeared because sea urchin populations increase in the otter’s absence. When sea otters repopulated these regions, urchin populations fell and the kelp and seaweed recovered. Moreover, the seaweed provides a habitat for fish and other fish-eating creatures such as harbor seals. Thus, when the sea otter returns to an area, so do other species.

Scientists believe that many little-known animals may be keystone species and that their loss could have profound effects on natural systems and crops. Bats, for example, are a keystone species in the tropical rain forest because they pol- linate flowers and disperse seeds of many plants. In fact, many tropical plant species are entirely dependent on bats. So are many important food crops such as avocados, ba- nanas, cloves, cashews, dates, figs, and mangos.

Ironically, the lion’s share of conservation funds is ded- icated to nonkeystone species. The loss of these species, al- though tragic, would not be as devastating as the loss of unobtrusive, rare, or little-known plants and animals whose survival is vital to many other species.

KEY CONCEPTS

A Multiplicity of Factors The foregoing discussion shows that there are many factors that contribute to the loss of plants, animals, and other organisms. Several factors may operate simultaneously on a single species. California condor populations, for instance, were greatly affected by DDT, which caused eggshell thinning and a dev- astating decline in offspring. Habitat destruction caused by road and housing construction also played a major role in the decline of this species—taking away the condors’ habitat. Even well-intentioned fire control efforts affected this giant bird, which has a wingspan up to 3 meters (nearly 10 feet). Fire suppression in the hills of southern California permitted brush to grow in the condors’ habitat. This, in turn, eliminated takeoff and landing areas needed by these giant scavengers.

The loss of salmon populations in the Pacific Northwest is another example of the way in which many factors com-

Keystone species are organisms on which many other species in an ecosystem depend. The loss of a single keystone species may have a devastating effect on other organisms.

bine to eliminate a species. Most readers have heard about the many dams along the rivers that halted the upstream migra- tion of adult salmon and the downstream migration of young salmon. Even with special salmon ladders, migrations are less than optimum. Young salmon, for instance, who migrate to the sea to mature, often get lost in reservoirs and never lo- cate the specially constructed ladders. Salmon have also been the victim of years of overfishing. Logging and agriculture have increased sediment deposition in salmon spawning grounds. Agriculture has also taken its toll on salmon by reducing stream flows resulting from irrigation withdrawals. Agricul- tural chemicals and sediment eroded from farm fields have both added to the salmon’s decline from historical levels of 10 to 16 million to 1.5 million today—three-quarters of which are raised in and released from hatcheries.

Not only do many factors contribute to the loss of species, but some observers are concerned that these factors may com- bine to produce an effect much greater than currently anticipated.

KEY CONCEPTS

Why Protect Biodiversity? Why should disappearing beetles, plants, or birds concern us? The answer to this question varies, depending on one’s ethics and one’s grasp of ecology and ecological economics— more specifically, on one’s understanding of the importance of other living things to the functioning of the planet and the human economy. In this section, we examine four reasons: (1) aesthetics and economics; (2) food, pharmaceuticals, scientific information, and products; (3) protecting free ser- vices and saving money; and (4) ethics. The first three cat- egories can be categorized as instrumental or utilitarian values—that is, they are based on humans’ obtaining some form of benefit. The fourth, based on ethical reasons to save endangered species and biodiversity, could be categorized as a nonutilitarian or an inherent value argument, for humans obtain no direct benefit.

KEY CONCEPTS

Aesthetics and Economics Wildlife expert Norman Myers once wrote, “Every time a species goes extinct, we are irreversibly impoverished.” Wildlife and their habitats are a rich aesthetic resource. The sight of a trumpeter swan on a pond in Montana, the eerie cry of the loon at night, and the graceful dive of the hump- back whale enrich our lives. Wild places provide solace to bat- tle the stress of the modern world.

Saving wild places and other species protects the beauty around us. It can also be an intelligent economic choice.

Arguments for protecting endangered species and preserving bio- diversity can be made on both utilitarian and nonutilitarian grounds.

11.3

Many factors acting together contribute to the loss of bio- diversity. These factors may synergize to produce a level of dev- astation far greater than anticipated.

 

 

204 PART IV. Resource Issues: Solutions for a Sustainable Society

Tourist towns and resorts the world over depend on natural beauty to attract visitors. Natural beauty also attracts residents to an area and can be a major benefit to those who want to relocate.

Another byproduct of the preservation of biodiver- sity is a relatively new and rapidly expanding industry called ecotourism, which

has cropped up in recent years to cater to the demands of bird-watchers, wildlife lovers, kayakers, and others who want to travel the globe discover- ing the beauties that abound in distant countries. Ecotourists spend thousands of dollars each to glimpse a lion or cheetah in Africa or a toucan in Central America or to kayak a remote river in Costa Rica (FIGURE 11-10). They sometimes stay in lodges that were built with little impact on the environment. The importance of ecotourism is that it provides a relatively sustainable alternative for nations and local villagers—people who once viewed wild species as competition for food and space or who regarded undeveloped land solely as a resource to provide wood products and other materials for human benefit. The problem with ecotourism is that to travel to the far reaches of the globe requires substantial amounts of energy. And people often crowd ecologically sensitive areas. Trucks carrying sightseers in Africa are cutting up the savannah to offer a glimpse of wildlife.

KEY CONCEPTS Some people believe that we should save other species because they are a source of beauty and pleasure. In addition, this can provide an economic benefit through activities such as eco- tourism and bird watching.

Food, Pharmaceuticals, Scientific Information, and Products “From morning coffee to evening nightcap,” writes Norman Myers, “we benefit in our daily life-styles from the fellow species that share our One Earth home. Without knowing it, we utilize hundreds of products each day that owe their ori- gin to wild animals and plants.” Virtually everything in our lives comes from the Earth’s crust or the plants and animals that inhabit grasslands, oceans, lakes, rivers, and forests. From the oceans, we harvest millions of tons of fish worth more than $70 billion a year. From rain forests, we harvest a wide assortment of edible fruits and nuts and numerous plant products, such as rattan, which is used to make wicker fur- niture and baskets. Tropical rain forest plants also yield med- icines to fight disease. As noted in Chapter 10, important plant and animal genes needed to improve domestic crops and livestock come from nature. Wildlife provides a wealth of enjoyment for hunters, anglers, and nature lovers, and wild species are a huge source of scientific information that pro- vides valuable insights into our world.

The economic benefits of wild species are huge. By some estimates, 40% of all prescription and nonprescription drugs are made with chemicals derived from or originally extracted from wild plants. Worldwide, the commercial value of the 7,000 or so drugs prescribed by doctors was estimated to be about $825 billion in 2010. The USDA estimates that each year genes introduced into commercial crop species yield over $1 billion worth of food. Similar gains can be docu- mented for other major agricultural nations. Internation- ally, the most widely traded nontimber product is rattan, which is estimated to be worth more than $7 billion a year.

Wild species provide a wealth of scientific information that could be of great practical value. Norman Myers, in fact, asserts that “wild species rank among the most valuable raw materials with which society can meet the unknown chal- lenges of the future.” Many products from wild species now loom on the horizon and may offer us considerable financial gains and healthier lives. For example, the adhesive that barnacles use to adhere to rocks and ships may provide hu- mankind with a new glue to cement fillings into teeth. A chemical derived from the skeletons of shrimps, crabs, and lobsters may help prevent fungal infections in human beings.

Scientists are also studying a wide range of species to learn new, economical, and environmentally friendly ways of producing a wide range of useful products. The abalone, for instance, produces a ceramic-like material much harder than those humans produce—and they do it in sea water using naturally occurring chemicals. Human ceramic produc- tion requires toxic chemicals and high-temperature furnaces. This effort is part of a movement called biomimicry.

KEY CONCEPTS Wild plants and animals are a valuable economic resource. They could provide new food sources to feed the growing human pop- ulation, genes that could improve crop species, new medicines to combat disease, scientific knowledge, and an assortment of products useful to us.

FIGURE 11-10 Ecotourism. Tourists spend billions of dollars each year to visit faraway places, creating an economic boon to many developing nations and considerable incentive to protect native species and undeveloped land. Ecotourism has a downside, though: Hordes of tourists in tour vehicles or on the backs of ani- mals can also cause severe environmental damage.

GO GREEN

Support organizations like the Nature Conservancy that buy and protect wildlife habitat.

 

 

CHAPTER 11: Preserving Biological Diversity 205

Protecting Free Services and Saving Money Ecosystems provide us with many invaluable services free of charge. For example, birds control insect pests. Plants produce oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide. Forests help maintain local climate. Vegetated land helps to replenish groundwater supplies, reduce flooding, and control erosion. Wetlands help purify water.

Although these services are free to us, they are extremely costly to replace with engineered designs. Consider an example. In 1989, a study of the economic impact of clear- cutting in the watershed of the Cedar River, from which the city of Seattle, Washington, acquires its drinking water, showed that continued harvesting would increase sediment in the river. To purify the water, the city would have to build a $120 million water treatment plant that would cost millions of dollars a year to operate. It would replace a service that is provided free by the relatively intact forest ecosystem.

Collectively, wetlands, forests, grasslands, and other nat- ural systems provide billions of dollars worth of services that most of us take for granted. But this does not mean that humans must create a hands-off policy. Many wildlands can sustain some level of harvest of natural resources without threatening biodiversity and environmental services. Mangrove swamps, for instance, are a nursery ground for commercially important fish and shrimp, but they also reduce coastal flood and storm damage and help filter sediment from waterways (FIG- URE 11-11). If properly managed, mangroves can provide tim- ber for construction, pulpwood for paper, and charcoal for energy. They can also provide food for livestock, shellfish for human consumption, and a number of other products. In Matang, Malaysia, for example, well-managed mangroves pro- duce fish and wood products worth more than $1,000 per hectare ($400 per acre) per year. One job is provided for every 3 hectares (7.5 acres). If all of Southeast Asia’s mangroves were managed sustainably, they would provide about $25 billion

annually to the economy and create about 8 million new jobs. If exploited carelessly, this valuable economic and ecological asset, part of our natural capital, could be lost forever.

KEY CONCEPTS

Ethics—Doing the Right Thing To some people, protecting plants and animals is simply the right thing to do. What right, some individuals ask, do hu- mans have to drive another species to extinction? Other or- ganisms have a right to live, too. To these people, preserving other forms of life is part of our responsibility. In fact, most major religions instruct their followers to protect other species. Of course, not all people agree with this view. To them, hu- man beings are the most important life-form, and thus, the needs and rights of other species take a backseat to ours.

KEY CONCEPTS

How to Save Endangered Species and Protect Biodiversity—A Sustainable Approach

Protecting endangered species and biodiversity, like all en- vironmental challenges, requires a number of strategies. Some will be stopgap in nature. These measures help us pro- tect species in immediate danger of extinction. Others are more long term and preventive in nature. Both types of effort are essential to sustainability—as vital as both emergency rooms and preventive medicine are to protecting human health. Before we examine these measures, let us consider the question of priorities.

KEY CONCEPTS

A Question of Priorities: Which Species Should We Protect? Endangered pandas, blue whales, rhinos, and chimpanzees generally make the headlines because they are the most ap- pealing or visible victims. Most preservation money is spent on these species. Interest in less appealing species is often dif- ficult to stir, but many less conspicuous species are impor- tant components of natural systems, even keystone species. Many inconspicuous species are vital to human welfare. An adult frog, for example, can eat its weight in insects every

Protecting endangered species and preserving the world’s dwin- dling biodiversity will require many actions—ranging from short- term protective measures to long-term preventive efforts.

11.4

To many people, preservation of other species is ethically appro- priate. Protecting them honors their right to exist and is there- fore ethically correct.

Protecting natural systems helps preserve many ecological ser- vices such as flood control and water pollution abatement. These services are very costly to replace with engineered solutions.

FIGURE 11-11 Mangrove swamp. This wonderfully dense thicket of trees along many coastlines provides many ecological services (including protection from storm surges) and can be sustainably harvested without loss of these services.

 

 

206 PART IV. Resource Issues: Solutions for a Sustainable Society

day. In India, sharp declines in the frog populations may be partly responsible for higher rates of insect damage on crops and for an increase in malaria, a debilitating disease trans- mitted by mosquitos, a main component of the frog’s diet. Losing species, therefore, is not just an aesthetic tragedy. It can have profound environmental, economic, and health consequences. Protecting species, regardless of how appeal- ing they are, is vital to sustainability.

KEY CONCEPTS

Stopgap Measures: First Aid for an Ailing Planet This section describes two stopgap measures designed to protect endangered species and preserve biodiversity: the Endangered Species Act and captive breeding programs.

The Endangered Species Act In 1973, the United States Congress passed the Endangered Species Act. This act, which has become a model for many other countries, re- quires the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to designate and list endangered and threatened species in the United States. En- dangered and threatened species are classified on the basis of biological criteria, primarily their population size and rate of population decrease. A species that is officially listed by the agency is then protected by law. It cannot be legally hunted or trapped or harassed. Violators face prosecution, fines, and jail sentences. The presence of an endangered species on federally owned land or private property slated for development with federal monies is enough to stop a project—unless a plan can be worked out to relocate the species or develop the land without affecting the species.

The Endangered Species Act also requires the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to develop recovery plans for endangered species, including measures to protect their habitat. It also provides money to purchase this habitat. Finally, the law en- ables the United States to help other nations protect their en- dangered and threatened species by banning the importation of these species and by providing technical assistance.

Protection formally begins with the listing of an endan- gered or threatened species. In 2010, 415 animals and 664 plants were designated as endangered in the United States. An additional 164 animals and 149 plants were listed as threatened.

Since the Endangered Species Act went into effect, thou- sands of projects on federally owned land or privately owned land with federal funding have been reviewed for their im- pact on endangered species. In most cases, differences have been worked out amicably. Thus, the Endangered Species Act is not an impediment to development as some critics assert.

The most renowned exception was the case of the snail darter and the Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) Tellico Dam on the Little Tennessee River, but it ended with a suc- cessful resolution that benefited both people and this en-

Although many species are endangered, most resources are ex- pended on the most appealing or most visible ones. Many eco- logically important species could vanish if efforts are not broadened.

dangered fish (FIGURE 11-12). Problems began in 1975, when a federal court ordered a halt to the construction of a mul- timillion-dollar dam (already 90% completed) that would have flooded what was thought to be the fish’s only breed- ing habitat. The order was upheld in the U.S. Supreme Court, and Congress established a committee to review a request for an exemption to the law. In 1979, the committee refused to grant an exemption, saying that the project was of question- able merit. The TVA applied more pressure on Congress, however, and later that year Congress authorized the com- pletion of the dam. The story did not end in tragedy for the snail darter, though, for it was transplanted to several neigh- boring streams where it is doing well. Additional popula- tions were discovered in several nearby streams.

A more recent example has been the battle in Oregon and Washington over protecting old-growth forests and the spot- ted owl, which was listed as threatened in 1989 (see Point/Counterpoint 12-1).

(a)

(b)

FIGURE 11-12 The snail darter. (a) Measuring only 8 centi- meters (3 inches), the snail darter created a great controversy between environmentalists and the TVA. (b) The impending destruction of the snail darter by the Tellico Dam brought the multimillion-dollar project to a standstill. After years of debate, Congress ordered the dam to be completed.

 

 

CHAPTER 11: Preserving Biological Diversity 207

The Endangered Species Act is one of the toughest and most successful environmental laws in the United States. The success of the act, says Bob Davison, a National Wildlife Fed- eration biologist, is best demonstrated by the fact “that there are species around today that would not have survived if the law had not forced agencies to consider the impacts of what they’re doing while allowing development to proceed. . . . To a large extent, the law has succeeded in continually jug- gling those two competing interests.”

As noted earlier, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lists endangered species in other countries as well and forbids their importation. Governments throughout the world have en- acted similar measures. An international ban on ivory trade, for instance, has nearly halted the illegal poaching of African elephants. In many countries, however, inadequate funding makes enforcement a joke. Inspectors can be paid off by il- legal traffickers in endangered species. Governmental agents patrol only a small fraction of the poachers’ range, and the courts have routinely been lenient toward poachers.

The Endangered Species Act has been under attack for many years. When considering placing a species on the list of threatened or endangered species, critics want economic fac- tors taken into account. They say that the economic impacts of listing a species as endangered should be considered during the process. It is their contention that if it is too costly to pro- tect a species or if it would eliminate jobs, a species should not be listed. Critics also point out that efforts to save species of- ten intrude on private property rights. They ask for compen- sation when, in order to protect an endangered species, a person’s land can no longer be used. Restriction of land use is often called a “taking.” For a debate on the takings issue, see Point/Counterpoint 11-1.

A report by the National Research Council, which pro- vides scientific advice to Congress, outlined numerous changes in the act to make it more scientifically sound and economically responsible. For example, it called for faster de- velopment of recovery plans and guidelines to avoid provi- sions that are scientifically and economically unjustified. Such plans, they said, should spell out which human activ- ities are likely to harm recovery and which ones are not—a step that would allow for better economic planning in and around protected areas.

The committee that prepared the report also recom- mended that a core of “survival habitat” be established as an emergency, stopgap measure when a species is first listed as endangered. This habitat would be able to support the pop- ulation for 25 to 50 years. After more careful study, scientists could determine the exact dimensions of the critical habitat needed for the species to recover. This might result in either a downsizing or an increase in the protected habitat.

Numerous attempts were made by the Bush administra- tion to rewrite the Endangered Species Act, making changes that would reduce the effectiveness of this legislation. Unable to get changes through Congress, the Bush administration weakened the Act through a number of regulatory decisions. For example, the administration approved a regulatory change that allows the EPA to approve new pesticides without con- sidering their impact on wildlife. The administration also

relaxed restrictions on the trade of endangered species to allow U.S. trophy hunters and wildlife traders to import more endangered species and body parts such as horns, antlers, and skins. During the early years of the Obama administration, the new president rescinded most of the damaging regulations.

KEY CONCEPTS

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species International wildlife trade is big business made possible in part by improvements in transportation that make it feasible to ship live plants and animals from their homeland to almost anywhere in the world to satisfy the pet trade market. Today, the sale of animals, skins, and live plants is worth billions of dollars to those who engage in the legal and illegal trade of these items.

Unfortunately, legal and illegal wildlife trade has also caused massive declines in the numbers of many species of plants and animals. Recognizing the threat trade posed to the world’s flora and fauna, the United Nations Environment Programme, The World Conservation Union, and the World Wide Fund for Nature launched an effort to ban commercial international trade of endangered or threatened species. The result was an agreement known as the Convention on Inter- national Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, also known as CITES. It went into effect on July 1, 1975, and currently has a membership of 150 nations.

CITES, the organization that administers the agreement, keeps a list of species (known as Appendix 1) threatened with extinction by international trade. CITES bans hunt- ing, capturing, and selling of endangered and threatened species. In addition, the signatories meet every 2 to 3 years to assess successes and failures of the convention. They also address new concerns and pass resolutions to protect listed species of wildlife and plants. Meetings are attended by both member nations (signatories) and nongovernmental organ- izations and nonmember states.

Important as it is, CITES has its shortcomings. Endangered and threatened species continue to be smuggled out of coun- tries, especially in the less developed nations where wildlife populations are disappearing rapidly. Documents are falsified by traders so that it appears as if the species were captured or collected in areas where they are still relatively abundant. Species may be mislabeled. Enforcement and investigational staff responsible for monitoring international wildlife trade are small in number and sometimes corrupt. Enforcement is left to each country and is often lax. Where enforcement exists, it is often weak. Penalties are mild. The result: Illegal trade in plants and wildlife whose future is in question continues.

Captive Breeding and Release Programs Zoos are another frontline component of the global effort to save species from extinction. Today, many of the 1,200 zoos and aquariums throughout the world are now involved in breeding endangered

The U.S. Endangered Species Act is a model of species protec- tion legislation, but it is essentially an emergency measure aimed at saving species already endangered or threatened with extinction.

 

 

208 PART IV. Resource Issues: Solutions for a Sustainable Society

POINT

To understand the takings issue, a good starting point is the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which includes the clause: “. . . nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” For most of the nation’s history, this “takings” clause referred to em- inent domain, the right of a government agency to take property to construct a road or a public building or for some other public purpose. The clause confirms the government’s right to take property but requires the government to com- pensate the former owner.

Compensation is important for two reasons. First, when resources are taken to provide a public good or service, the cost should be shared by the public. Taking a tract of land, a crop, or a tree from an owner without compensation would put an unjust burden on that owner. Second, compensation forces politicians and government officials to recognize the cost of what they are doing. The cost of a school, for exam- ple, includes resources such as the bricks used and the land on which it stands. To ignore the cost of these resources is to invite their overuse and waste. Compensation puts the re- sources into the budget process where, quite properly, it competes for access to tax dollars against other uses.

What has changed is that today’s takings may occur not just through eminent domain but through regulations. Of course, regulation has long been used to protect the prop- erty and the person of individuals from harmful behavior. Pre- venting a polluter from wrongfully harming a downwind neighbor, for example, is an exercise of the government’s po- lice power. Courts agree that this type of regulation is not a taking, and compensation is not appropriate.

However, the expanding scope of environmental regu- lations has led the courts, including the Supreme Court, to consider the purpose of a regulation more carefully. If the purpose is to produce a public good, such as public access to a beach or habitat for wildlife, rather than to protect someone downwind from pollution, a court may rule that forc- ing a landowner to provide the service is a taking, and when a taking reduces the value of property, the government must compensate the property owner.

A 1992 decision by the Supreme Court made clear that when a public good is the purpose of the regulation, rather than preventing the violation of the rights of others, courts may find that a taking has occurred, and compensation is due. David Lucas, a Charleston, South Carolina developer, had purchased two oceanside lots in 1986 with the intention of building homes on them. In 1988, before Lucas began con-

struction, the government of South Carolina enacted the Beachfront Management Act, which prohibited building on beachfront lots. Although his neighbors had built homes on their beachfront property, Lucas was not allowed to build on his. His property, for which he had paid $975,000, lost virtually all its value. Lucas was awarded compensation for the near-total taking.

Unfortunately, some activists seeking preservation re- gardless of cost tend to confuse the two kinds of regulation— stopping a harm and providing a public service. Another term that they have championed, “givings,” also causes confusion. A regulatory taking may actually give value to the owner. For example, when a portion of a field is taken for a highway exit, the value of the remaining property may end up higher than the value of the entire tract prior to the tak- ing. In this case, a portion of the property is taken by the state, but no compensation is required. The owner gains, and the government gains not only from the land use, but also by receiving more revenue from property taxes, higher taxes paid on income from the land, and, if the property is later sold, higher capital gains taxes.

Appropriate compensation encourages good manage- ment and cooperation. Today, the Fish and Wildlife Service simply dictates the use of land to carry out its Endangered Species Act mandates. If the agency paid the cost of those restrictions, its staff would seek cheaper land and use eco- nomical habitat enrichment techniques. Responding to these restrictions, landowners tend to be uncooperative. Some preemptively modify their land to keep endangered animals away. Case studies and statistical evidence showing the im- portance of this problem are accumulating.

Both logic and evidence suggest that treating the rights of landowners with greater respect, while continu- ing to hold them responsible for any wrongful harms they cause, would lead to more effective environmental protec- tion. Until these rights are respected, the “takings” issue will remain.

Critical Thinking Questions 1. After you have read both essays, summarize the main

points of each author in this debate; then list sup- porting information.

2. Identify any arguments you would have liked ex- panded and not why.

3. Which viewpoint best corresponds to yours? Why?

Compensate Landowners for Restrictions on Property Rights Richard L. Stroup Richard L. Stroup is a Professor of Economics at Montana State University and a Senior Associate of the Political Economy Research Center (PERC) in Bozeman, Montana.

11-1 Preserving Wildlife, Usurping Private Property Rights?

You can link to websites that represent both sides through Point/Counterpoint: Furthering the Debate at this book’s internet site, www.environment.jbpub.com/9e/. Evaluate each side’s argument more fully and clarify your own opinion.

 

 

CHAPTER 11: Preserving Biological Diversity 209

COUNTERPOINT

In the early 19th century, British textile workers wrecked newly introduced machines out of fear that technological ad- vances threatened their employment. Ever since, these so- called “luddites” have been a symbol of misguided opposition to human progress.

Modern “takings”—or “property rights”—advocates are best understood as latter day luddites. In the face of over- whelming scientific proof of growing environmental stresses, and of the necessity of a new system of property rights and responsibilities in order to protect our environment, tak- ings advocates tenaciously cling to an outmoded, environ- mentally destructive conception of property rights.

The central contribution of 20th century environmen- tal science has been a new recognition that, in a literal sense, everything is connected to everything else. We now know that burning of fossil fuels, once viewed as relatively benign, contributes to higher levels of atmospheric carbon and threatens to produce worldwide warming. We now know that wetlands destruction, the promotion of which was once government policy, increases flooding and pollution levels scores if not hundreds of miles downstream. And we know now that traditional logging practices, unless modified, threaten to wipe certain species out of existence.

Until only a few decades ago, it was hardly farfetched to think that a property owner’s rights—as well as an owner’s responsibilities—ended at the boundary of his or her prop- erty. Today we know better, that the security of the environ- ment, and the long-term value of property itself, depends on careful attention to the effects of an owner’s activities on the surrounding neighborhood and society as a whole.

Takings advocates dispute the idea that society can and should evolve to reflect this new scientific understanding. They reject the idea of new responsibilities to protect the en- vironment as both unwanted and unfair. They assert that if society as a whole insists on these changes, the public should pay property owners for shouldering the new responsibilities. There is simply no legitimate support for this position.

Takings advocates seek to ground their argument in the Constitution of the United States, but it is a myth that any- one has a constitutional right not to follow public regula- tions designed to protect the environment. The Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment provides that the public must pay “just compensation” when it seizes private property for use in building a road or a school, for example. But, as the U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed, this provision of the Con- stitution was never intended to prevent regulation of uses of private property to protect society as a whole.

There is nothing surprising nor unprecedented about the idea that society’s thinking about private property changes over time. In colonial Massachusetts, a law prohibited the build- ing of a home more than easy walking distance from the meet- ing house; while this restriction probably strikes most modern American citizens as onerous, the rule apparently suited the society of that time and place. Likewise, in the early 20th cen- tury, the idea that government can set the minimum wage or fix maximum hours seemed an affront to private property rights, but the practice is well accepted now.

Also, in demanding public payment as a condition of re- fraining from harming our environment, takings advocates seek unfair windfalls at public expense. After all, reasonable envi- ronmental standards benefit everyone, including private prop- erty owners. In addition, much of the value of private property is created by nearby public investments, and it is hardly fair for owners to demand payments from the public based on spec- ulative value created in part by the public in the first place.

This argument for the legitimacy of public regulation of the uses of private property suggests no disrespect for pri- vate property as an institution or its importance to the proper functioning of our economy. One of the key purposes of government is to safeguard property owners against theft and fraud. But the public’s role in safeguarding private prop- erty rights goes hand in hand with the public’s authority to ensure that those rights are exercised responsibly.

Nor does this viewpoint disparage the value of our mar- ket economy in producing an efficient mix of products and services. Quite the opposite. The familiar principle of “pol- luter pays” reflects a recognition that, in order for the mar- ket economy to function efficiently, firms whose activities produce external costs must be required to internalize these costs. In a competitive market, competing timber firms, for example, are driven to seek to maximize the return from the trees on their land, without regard to the negative costs of logging in terms of degraded fisheries, wildlife, or public drinking supplies. In the absence of regulation, these exter- nal costs would go unaddressed, and the companies would operate at less than an optimal level of efficiency from the standpoint of society as a whole.

Takings advocates would, in effect, exacerbate the prob- lem of “market failure” by encouraging firms and individu- als to ignore the external costs of their actions or, what amounts to the same thing, by forcing the public to pay them not to produce these external costs. In either case, the ultimate result is inefficient from an economic standpoint.

Fortunately, the passage of time solves many problems, and this will likely be the case with the takings issue. At bot- tom, the controversy over property rights reflects the painful process of change as we adapt our property concepts to re- flect our new scientific knowledge. There is ground for hope that, as environmental education advances, firms and indi- viduals will make investment decisions in harmony with the new environmental realities rather than in opposition to them. If so, today’s takings luddites can be expected to pass into history along with their 19th century counterparts.

Rethinking Property Rights and Wildlife Protection John Echeverria John Echeverria is director of the Envi- ronmental Policy Project, Georgetown University Law Center.

 

 

210 PART IV. Resource Issues: Solutions for a Sustainable Society

species in captivity to prevent them from disappearing from the face of the Earth. Canada’s zoos are home to a dozen en- dangered or threatened animal species such as the whooping crane and ferruginous hawk. Botanical gardens are also lend- ing a hand. In fact, today, about half of the world’s 2,803 botan- ical gardens have developed programs to conserve rare plant species. Canada’s 102 botanical gardens house at least 1,077 endangered, rare, or threatened plant species. More recently, zoos have been trying to establish captive-bred populations to provide animals for release into suitable habitat once the cap- tive population was well established. One recent project was launched by zoos in the mainland United States to rescue three rare species of birds threatened by tree snakes on the is- land of Guam. The survival of the California condors lies in the hands of biologists and personnel of the San Diego Wild Animal Park and the Los Angeles Zoo.

Many primates used for research are also being raised in captivity by commercial animal supply houses in an effort to reduce the drain on wild populations. Yet another way of reducing demand on wild populations is the use of labora- tory tests—for example, cell cultures—rather than tests on live animals. Toxicity tests, for example, could be performed on cells grown in tissue culture. A surprising number of sub- stitutes are already available. Actions such as these could stop the flow of animals from their natural habitat and help prevent the extinction of many primates.

The release of animals into the wild to reestablish pop- ulations that have been driven to extinction is an essential component of captive breeding programs. After all, what good is species preservation if the species must remain in cap- tivity for eternity? Gray wolf populations, for instance, are being reestablished in and around Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming and in the Northern Rockies (FIGURE 11-13). The Mexican wolf is being reintroduced into Arizona and New Mexico. Both programs have been sparked by major dis- agreements between environmentalists who seek to reestab- lish populations and ranchers who are concerned about predation by wolves on sheep and cattle. To address this problem, the Defenders of Wildlife established a Wolf Com- pensation Trust donated by private sources to pay for losses. (For a discussion of boths sides of the wolf introduction, see Point/Counterpoint 11-2.)

KEY CONCEPTS

Long-Term Preventive Measures Captive breeding programs and laws such as the Endan- gered Species Act are a kind of first aid measure in global efforts to protect species. They can be thought of as emer- gency measures needed to preserve the planet’s biodiver- sity. They’re similar to the kinds of treatment a heart attack patient receives in an emergency room of a hospital. An emergency room physician may save a patient suffering

Zoos are an important player in a global effort to protect endan- gered species. They not only house many endangered species, protecting them from extinction, they are breeding many species for eventual release into protected habitat.

from a heart attack, but unless the patient diets, exercises, quits smoking, and learns to handle stress, he or she is not likely to survive very long. By the same token, emergency measures are not enough to ensure a diverse, biologically rich world. To achieve this goal, preventive measures are needed. Like other environmental problems, this one can be addressed by slowing, even halting, the growth of the human population and a fundamental redesign of human systems such as agriculture, energy, industry, and waste management.

KEY CONCEPTS

Restructuring Human Systems for Sustainability To ensure a biologically rich world, we must address the root causes of species extinction and the loss of biodiversity. We need to tackle such issues as habitat destruction, overharvesting, and pollution—and the fundamental driving forces behind these problems, notably unsustainable economic and population growth. To create sustainable solutions that confront these causes will require changes in human systems, from econom- ics to transportation to waste management. This book out- lines the need to restructure such systems by applying the operating principles of sustainability—especially conserva- tion, recycling, renewable resource use, and restoration—to human systems (Chapter 2). Such efforts go a long way to- ward eliminating many of the pressures that endanger our planet and the many species that live on it with us. Spotlight on Sustainable Development 11-1 gives an example of what

Many stopgap measures are required to save species from imme- diate extinction, but in the long run, preserving biodiversity requires preventive actions, including steps to help restructure human systems for sustainability.

FIGURE 11-13 Gray wolf. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Biologist Alice Whitelaw carries a sedated gray wolf, soon to be released in Yellowstone National Park, to an awaiting veterinarian for a checkup.

 

 

CHAPTER 11: Preserving Biological Diversity 211

SPOTLIGHT ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

11-1 Predator Friendly Wool and Wolf Country Beef: You Must Have Read the Label Wrong

Imagine going to the store to the mall to buy a new sweater. One particular brand catches your eye. It’s made from Preda- tor Friendly Wool. After you pay for your purchase, you stop in at the restaurant next door to buy a salad made from Salmon Safe vegetables, while the gentleman at the next table enjoys a hamburger made from Wolf Country Beef.

Thanks to the efforts of far-seeing environmentalists, farmers, and ranchers, this scenario is becoming a reality. In Oregon, the Pacific Rivers Council is spearheading an inno- vative program to encourage farmers to grow crops in ways that help protect salmon fisheries. Farmers who join the pro- gram are seeking ways to reduce runoff from farm fields into streams, which brings with it sediment and pollutants that destroy salmon habitat. Runoff can be reduced by planting buffer zones along streams to trap sediment running off from nearby land or by contour farming and other techniques dis- cussed in Chapter 10. Cover crops, such as clover or rye, may be planted on cropland between seasons or in fallow fields, to protect them from the pernicious effects of rain.

Although the Salmon Safe program doesn’t make pes- ticide prohibitions part of their certification, it does recog- nize the importance of reducing pesticide use in protecting fish and wildlife. The program’s goal is to complement or- ganic certification programs that focus on chemical use. Combined, the two programs provide optimal levels of pro- tection for the nation’s fish and wildlife.

In Montana and Idaho, sheep ranchers are trying their own brand of animal protection thanks to the efforts of the Growers’ Wool Cooperative. Its Predator Friendly Wool Certi- fication program seeks the coexistence of sheep and native predators, rather than eradication of predators. Ranchers use natural methods to keep coyotes away from their sheep, in- cluding llamas, which are quite protective, and guard dogs. These nonlethal measures reportedly make Predator Friendly Wool a popular item among some buyers.

In Arizona and New Mexico, the Defenders of Wildlife, a national organization, is working with cattle ranchers to help promote reintroduction of the Mexican wolf. The Mex- ican wolf or “El Lobo” is a subspecies of the gray wolf. It once roamed freely through much of Arizona and New Mex- ico. As with other predators, ranchers and government agents took a dim view of this predator, shooting them, poisoning them, and catching them in traps. By 1950, the Mexican wolf population was nearly gone. The last remain- ing wild wolf was shot in 1970.

Defenders of Wildlife, which has taken an active role in the reintroduction of the gray wolf in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming, has crusaded hard to reintroduce the Mexican wolf to its native habitat using captive-bred animals. In 1998, the first wolves were introduced into the wild in Ari- zona. Released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the

Apache National Forest bordering New Mexico and Arizona, the wolves had a rough go of it. To date, nearly 100 captive- bred Mexican wolves have been released, but the wild pop- ulation is now (2010) only about 42 with only two breeding pairs. Defenders of Wildlife cite three major reasons for this discrepancy. To date, at least 23 wolves have been shot by ranchers. Ten wolves have been killed for killing cattle, and at least 10 have died after being recaptured.

Because wolves cannot be expected to remain in the Na- tional Forest, Defenders initiated a fund, known as the Wolf Compensation Trust, to reimburse ranchers in nearby areas for any losses incurred by wolves. The Fund compensates ranchers in Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho, too, and has made 893 payments from 1987 to June 2010 to ranchers for loss of sheep, cattle (mostly calves), colts, and guard dogs killed or presumed killed by gray wolves released in Yellow- stone and the northern Rockies. It also covers losses from wolves that have naturally migrated from Canada into north- western Montana. The goal of Defenders of Wildlife is “to shift economic responsibility for wolf recovery away from the in- dividual rancher and toward the millions of people who want to see wolf populations restored.” Money for the fund comes from private donations. “When ranchers alone are forced to bear the cost of wolf recovery, it creates animosity and ill will toward the wolf,” say Defenders. New federal legislation is shifting responsibility for payments to states and Indian tribes. This frees up resources of Defenders to work with ranchers to prevent wolf predation in livestock.

It should be pointed out that wolves are responsible for only a tiny percentage of all cattle deaths in the United States. Respiratory diseases, digestive problems, complica- tions giving birth, and other diseases are major causes of death. Coyotes kill 22 times more cattle than wolves and do- mestic dogs five times more than wolves.

Defenders has also launched proactive efforts to prevent conflict between humans, livestock, and wolves and other predators. This program funds nonlethal deterrants that pre- vent bears and wolves from preying on livestock and even honey bees. Fencing to protect bees from bears, guard dogs to protect livestock, and fences to protect sheep are just a few of their privately funded efforts.

This program takes the economic sting out of wolf rein- troduction. It demonstrates that conservation can be achieved through cooperation and that people need not be hurt eco- nomically by efforts to create a sustainable future.

In 1990, the Earth Island Institute initiated another in- novative effort, the Dolphin Safe Tuna program. They later launched a Turtle Safe Shrimp program. Participants got bragging rights and marketing advantages for acting re- sponsibly. It’s an arrangement that works for people, the en- vironment, and the economy.

 

 

212 PART IV. Resource Issues: Solutions for a Sustainable Society

some ranchers and environmentalists are doing to change practices to help protect wildlife.

More specifically, the sustainable strategy calls on peo- ple the world over to use only those resources they need and to use them with efficiency. All systems should be re- structured to be maximally efficient. Such efforts would greatly reduce both our demand for resources and the habitat destruction caused by resource extraction (such as timber harvesting and mining). Recycling similarly re- duces our need for both resource extraction and landfills, which destroy habitat. Recycling, as you will learn in Chapter 16, also uses less energy than making products from raw materials, thus reducing the amount of pollution we produce. All systems should maximize recycling by

ensuring the return of usable waste to the production– consumption cycle and by incorporating recycled materi- als in new products and system components. Turning to renewable energy resources such as sunlight and wind would have an equally beneficial impact on wild species and natural habitats. Transportation, housing, industry, and other sectors can increase their dependence on re- newable energy, which would help reduce some of our most serious pollution problems such as global warming, acid deposition, and oil spills. The restoration of natural habitats is also needed both to save wild species and to protect the free services nature provides. In the Pacific Northwest, for instance, five dams on the Columbia/Snake River watershed, which collectively produce only 5% of the

POINT

The Mexican Wolf reintroduction into southwest New Mexico and southeast Arizona has been in progress for 8 years. In those years, the project has had more than its share of fail- ures. Those failures never seem to affect the project or the forces that drive it.

Agencies in charge of the Mexican Wolf restoration proj- ect and environmental organizations that support it will un- doubtedly claim that restoring lobos into the southwest will renew biodiversity in a region that supposedly has none.

What is biodiversity? The word is not in the dictionary. Is it necessary to have a predator, as lethal to other species as wolves have historically been proven to be, in order to have biodiversity? Or is biodiversity just another buzzword brought into the midst of land management policies to further a po- litical agenda?

Environmental organizations across the U.S. have given their support to wolf reintroduction, but only in agricul- tural communities. Wolves are never restored where peo- ple do not inhabit the area for the purpose of raising market livestock.

Supporters of wolf restoration efforts back up the U.S. Fish and Wildlife agency by saying the wolves were here first, and if necessary, those dependent on the land for livestock production can move aside for the animals. Naturally, ranch- ers see that as fighting words. When agencies and organiza- tions cannot show scientific data that substantiates the need for another predator, supporters explain their compulsion to accomplish wolf reintroduction as the “it’s the right thing to do.” Who is it right for, certainly not the communities sur- rounding the wolf release sites, certainly not the game species, certainly not the ranchers and area hunters. How many times have we as individuals made an absolutely immoral decision and altered our lives or hurt someone else because, at the time, the bad decision seemed like the right thing to do?

In reality, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife agency is mandated by law to restore species to their former habitats. The Endan- gered Species Act (ESA), does not place upon the agency the requirement of good science to list a species. Science seldom has anything to do with it at all. A species can be listed as en- dangered by licking a stamp, putting it on an envelope, and mail- ing out a request. The Endangered Species Act has been up for reauthorization for 6 years but has never been reauthorized due to political pressure from environmental extremists.

The ESA has become inefficient and burdensome. The agencies that carry out the act seldom comply with the in- tent of the act to recover species. Very few species are ever removed from the list. The ESA supports enormous bureau- cratic agencies, has given these agencies the power to ma- nipulate people, whole communities and states, without having to show that any species they choose to recover is ever recovered sufficiently. Some grassroots organizations even argue that the ESA is so inefficient and out of date, it is no longer legal as it is now written.

Mexican Wolf Reintroduction Debacle Laura Schneberger Laura and her husband Matt own a work- ing cattle ranch that depends on a federal land grazing permit in the Gila National Forest in southwest New Mexico. She has three children and writes editorials and feature articles that have been published in many New Mexico newspapers and a few national publications.

11-2 Controversy Over Wolf Reintroduction

 

 

CHAPTER 11: Preserving Biological Diversity 213

region’s electricity, are responsible for wiping out 90% of the wild salmon in 25 years. Accordingly, some environ- mentalists are calling for the destruction of these dams to ensure the salmon’s future. In instances where dams have become obsolete and were torn down, salmon populations have rebounded nicely.

As noted earlier, essential to these efforts are measures to stabilize human population growth and, perhaps, re- duce human numbers over the long haul. Finally, growth management strategies are needed to stop the spread of human populations. These efforts, when combined, could make tremendous inroads into the problem of species ex- tinction, and they could offer many other benefits to soci- ety as well.

KEY CONCEPTS

Setting Aside Biologically Rich Regions Buying habitats of endangered species and instituting growth management strategies, described in Chapter 17, to help reduce urban sprawl are vital to the protection of endangered species and the maintenance of biodiversity—but they’re not

Protecting biodiversity will be best achieved by efforts that ad- dress the root causes of the crisis of unsustainability—our in- efficient use of resources, continued population growth, our reliance on fossil fuels, our failure to recycle extensively, and our lack of attention to restoration. Addressing these issues will protect plants and animals and bring many other benefits to society.

The areas in the Southwest where government agen- cies and environmentalists have demanded the lobo be re- turned have diverse game populations that have not only survived intact, but have grown enough to provide tremen- dous hunting and tourism income for the states that they oc- cupy. If lobos are successfully introduced into these regions, it is expected that prey species numbers will plummet to pre-1920s levels. The excess game that are now harvested and provide jobs and income in these states will no longer exist. The deer and elk herds in the state belong to the state to manage, not to the federal government.

Since the removal of the Mexican wolf from the South- west, herds of elk, antelope, and deer have improved, in- creased, and been managed for the benefit of the herds and the communities. When lobos roamed the Southwest, very few deer could be found for game to support growing com- munities, livestock were brought in to supply meat, and wolf packs turned to livestock for their prey base.

Cattle still inhabit the areas that are being put to use as wolf habitat. Cattle and other prey species for wolves ex- ist together in a complementary manner and cannot be sep- arated as distinct prey species though wolf proponents try to do so. All ungulate herds in the Southwest are prey for wolves though none are owned by those hoping to introduce wolves. Either individuals or the state own the prey being set aside for reintroduced lobos. The ESA has no provisions for reimbursing individuals or communities for losses to endangered animals. Wolves will migrate into areas occu- pied by cattle when they follow elk and deer to the fresh grasses brought up by grazing cattle. The wolves will stay once they learn cattle are more easily preyed upon than deer or elk who have the ability to strike back at attackers with their forefeet.

Historically, Mexican lobos were responsible for the de- mise of hundreds of thousands of dollars in livestock in Ari- zona, New Mexico, and Texas. One study conducted from 1920 to 1922 showed that the stomach contents of 200 lo- bos were either empty, or contained beef, burro, horse, pig, or sheep. Only 17% contained antelope, deer, or rabbit.

In another historical account, a 3-year-old girl dis- appeared from a mining camp in Hillsboro, New Mexico for 4 days. She had been playing with a pack of semiwild burros living in the area of the camp. Trackers followed the burro herd for days trying to find the child. Her tracks were interspersed with those of the burros and those of a wolf pack. When found, she was alive, hungry, and exhausted; the burros had sur- rounded her and kept her moving while defending her from the attack of the wolves. The searchers found areas where tracks showed the burros had surrounded the girl and fought off the lobos. They even left one wolf carcass in the trail. Iron- ically, the wolves and the burros saved the child’s life. The bur- ros kept her moving and kept wolves off her, and the wolves kept the burros moving; if they hadn’t, she would have suf- fered from hypothermia and died.

Just the fact that this story is still told sheds some light on how the people of the Southwest felt about wolves and why they were removed from the area. It isn’t the only story left over from a bygone era that shows the Mexican lobo reintroduction to be a senseless endeavor.

Wolf reintroduction is seen by inhabitants of the ru- ral Southwest as an attempt to control the use of land in poor states. It is being orchestrated by organizations that subsist on government and foundation money and bloated government bureaucracies. The welfare of wolves and their species is subordinate to the goal of land and people control.

 

 

214 PART IV. Resource Issues: Solutions for a Sustainable Society

lenges. Not knowing how to deal with drought, overgraz- ing, overhunting, or the general diminished carrying capac- ity of the land, ranchers targeted wolves with a vengeance. Wolf killing soon became a federal campaign carried out by professional trappers encouraged with bounties, and wolves were slaughtered by the millions. They were shot, trapped, poisoned, burned, and demonized to near extinction. By the mid-1950s wolf populations had been completely extirpated from 90% of their historic range in the lower 48 states.

The removal of wolves brought on abrupt and drastic changes in ecosystems. Animals such as deer and elk now have few natural checks and balances and die by the thousands during unnatural population explosions. As their numbers grow out of control they overgraze the landscape, destroy nat- ural vegetation, and contribute to erosion, watershed degra- dation, and other problems. It is ironic that wolves were extirpated because of a fear of economic loss, because the ecological instability caused by their removal is now se- verely undermining the profitability of ranching and other resource-dependent industries. The landscape without wolves is biologically impoverished. Learning from history, a few western ranchers are now finding it possible to reinvigorate land productivity and profitability by mimicking the herding and regulatory role of wolves. These ranchers, however, agree that such management is labor intensive and that wolves would be less expensive and more effective (Jim Winder, personal communication).

Wolves also check other predators. Since the reintroduc- tion of wolves in Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley, biologist Robert Crabtree has found that wolves have reduced the coyote population by 50%. Conversely, in areas where wolves have been eliminated coyote populations have exploded. The greater density of coyotes has resulted in increased preda- tor problems for livestock producers, as well as for other small to mid-size animals.

By looking for weaknesses in their prey, wolves usually kill vulnerable, sick, or starving animals. This process bol- sters the genetic vigor and overall health of prey populations. Additionally, wolves create ecological hotspots when they leave behind carcasses. These carcasses attract a variety of

Controversy Over Wolf Reintroduction

Perhaps no animal has been shrouded in more controversy, misinformation, and emotion than the wolf. While just 50 years ago a federal campaign sought to eliminate wolves, a popular federal program now seeks to reestablish them. This shift reflects society’s emerging understanding of the di- verse benefits of wolves and our growing sense of respon- sibility to right the wrongs of the past when possible. Ensuring the survival of wolves is not only possible, but desirable and necessary. Wolf recovery is important to conserve the wolf itself, to maintain important ecological processes, and to provide spiritual, recreational, economic, and esthetic ben- efits to people. While wolf eradication was encouraged by myth, misinformation, and misunderstanding, wolf conser- vation is supported by ecology, evolution, economics, edu- cation, and ethics.

The influence of wolves runs deep. For tens of thou- sands of years they have been an important evolutionary force shaping and maintaining the landscape of North Amer- ica and its inhabitants. The alertness of deer, the herding of ungulates and the lodge-building of beaver are all, in part, attributed to the wolf. Wolves have similarly influenced hu- mankind. Evolutionary biologist John Allman asserts that Homo sapiens, through their close alliance with wolves, were able to outcompete neanderthals. It is also believed that humans adopted aspects of wolf family structure and be- havior to improve our own efficiency and chances for survival. It is ironic that man is responsible for the recent campaign to exterminate the animal which through centuries of coex- istence became “man’s best friend.”

The systematic destruction of wolves began in the early 17th century with the arrival of British Colonists and their livestock to North America. As settlements were established on top of territories already occupied by native people and native wildlife, policies of assimilation and extermination quickly became the law of the land. Domestic livestock rap- idly displaced native populations of deer and other preferred prey of wolves. Over-hunting by humans also severely re- duced and in some cases entirely eliminated prey populations. Wolves turned to the larger, slower moving, and more abun- dant livestock. In the West stockmen faced many new chal-

enough. Another preventive effort of extreme importance is the establishment of biodiversity reserves—protected areas characterized by a high biodiversity. The world map in FIGURE 11-14 shows numerous high-priority areas in need of such protection. Advocates of this approach argue that protecting these regions is the best economic invest- ment in plant and wildlife diversity we can make, for it safe- guards areas with extremely rich plant and animal life.

As you can see from the map, most of these regions are located in LDCs that lack the financial resources needed to protect them. Ironically, though, the wealthy, biologi- cally poor MDCs will probably benefit the most from pre-

serving these genetic resources. Therefore, many people argue that the more developed nations of the world should share the cost of preserving these areas. A 1% tax on inter- nationally traded oil, say proponents, could net billions of dollars a year and would go a long way toward establish- ing and maintaining large reserves in high-priority areas. An innovative way more developed countries can help in this effort is presented in Spotlight on Sustainable Development 11-2.

Many LDCs have made important efforts to protect their lands. China, which houses approximately 10% of the world’s species, recently set aside 44 million hectares (110 million

 

 

CHAPTER 11: Preserving Biological Diversity 215

COUNTERPOINT

species in high numbers, including eagles, wolverines, fish- ers, ravens, and more. Beetles and other invertebrates also prosper and attract other birds often carrying fleas, ticks, lice, etc. Carcass decomposition then benefits plant life with re- newed fertilization, yielding thicker greener grasses and forbs to support the next generation of ungulates. Simply put, wolves are engineers of biodiversity. Their ability to main- tain productive landscapes is the result of over 12,000 years of experience. The wise will embrace this understanding; others will reject it.

Critics of wolf restoration claim that the goal of wolf re- covery is to control land use and to force ranchers out of busi- ness, but such claims ignore important facts. First and foremost, wolves kill livestock infrequently, especially when native prey is available. In wolf-occupied territories across the U.S. and Canada, less than one half of one percent of live- stock present in wolf-occupied regions has been lost to wolves. To share the economic responsibility of wolves, De- fenders of Wildlife reimburses ranchers at fair-market value for all verified losses. Since 1987, $115,000 has been paid to 112 ranchers. Defenders has also helped to minimize wolf–livestock conflicts by purchasing portable electric fenc- ing, hiring herdsmen, purchasing hay, providing guard dogs, and disposing of carcasses. Defenders also developed a “wolf country” labeling program that creates a market premium for beef products produced in a manner compatible with wolf con- servation. It is no coincidence that Arizona “wolf country” ranchers Will and Jan Holder have turned their first profit in 25 years in the presence of wolves. Despite rhetoric from tra- ditional antagonists, opportunities exist to heal the wounds between conservation and agricultural communities as well as between humans and wildlife.

The crusade to exterminate wolves reflected the values of a culture then obsessed with taming wilderness. Today that mindset seems primitive considering that scientists are now predicting that within the next 50 years the only large mam- mals likely to remain on earth will be those which humans have decided to keep around. Wolves and other wildlife were placed here by a power higher than the livestock industry or the federal government. Right or wrong, humans are now

determining the existence or nonexistence of these and other life forms. This serious responsibility warrants the thoughtful consideration of facts and the generous use of cau- tion. Moreover, the overwhelming majority of the public rec- ognizes the importance of maintaining a broad diversity of life and believes that species like the wolf are worth keep- ing. This sentiment is reflected in our national policy, the Endangered Species Act. It is our legal, biological, and moral obligation to prevent the senseless loss of wolves and other imperiled wildlife. Failing this would be a reckless aban- donment of our responsibility to society, to our children, and to ourselves.

Critical Thinking Questions 1. List the main arguments of each author. 2. Does each author do a good job of supporting his or

her arguments? 3. Which viewpoint corresponds to yours?

Why Wolves? Craig Miller Southwest Director of Defenders of Wildlife, lives in Tucson, Arizona, with his wife and two sons. All are eager to share their world with the big, good wolf.

You can link to websites that represent both sides through Point/Counterpoint: Furthering the Debate at this book’s internet site, http://environment.jbpub.com/9e/. Evaluate each side’s argument more fully and clarify your own opinion.

acres) of forest and tundra—or about 4.5% of its land area— as nature reserves to protect biodiversity. The government of Colombia has turned over 18 million hectares (45 million acres) of rain forest land, an area approximately three-fourths the size of Great Britain, to tribal peoples who have lived on the land sustainably for hundreds of years. The lands will be held in common by the people and cannot be sold unless they have the agreement of three-fourths of the adults in the af- fected tribes.

The Colombian government is also purchasing moun- tain land, where settlers of European descent have lived for almost 200 years, and is turning it back to its indigenous peo-

ple. Combined with rain forests, some 26 million hectares (65 million acres) are now in the hands of local tribes. The success of this program has prompted other developing countries to follow suit. In 1991, Venezuela gave perma- nent title to a region of forest about the size of Austria to a native tribe.

Many areas in the more developed nations also need permanent protection. Although efforts are underway by private, nonprofit organizations such as the Nature Conser- vancy and by various governmental agencies, much more can be done. A study of protected and biologically rich areas in Idaho showed that most of the protected areas—for

 

 

216 PART IV. Resource Issues: Solutions for a Sustainable Society

example, areas set aside as federally designated wilderness— were rather low in biodiversity, whereas the high-biodiversity regions were in private hands and were not in any kind of pro- gram to ensure their protection. This type of analysis is called gap analysis, because it shows a gap between protection ef- forts and areas needing protection. Many other states are finding the same result.

KEY CONCEPTS

Buffer Zones and Wildlife Corridors: Protecting and Con- necting Vital Areas Existing amid crops, cities, pastures, towns, and mines, protected areas (set aside for wildlife) have been only marginally successful in safeguarding biodi- versity, much to the surprise of many. American ecologist William Newmark studied the loss of mammal species in national parks and reported an alarming decline in the num- ber of species in all but the very largest parks. Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park, which is one of the nation’s smallest parks, lost 36% of its species. California’s Yosemite, which is nearly 20 times larger than Bryce, lost 23% of its species. Ecologists refer to such isolated patches of protected habi- tat as ecological islands.

Setting aside high-biodiversity areas for permanent protection will help to protect species from extinction and will help preserve biodiversity. Unfortunately, the majority of the most biologically diverse areas are located in the less developed nations, which lack the financial resources to protect them.

The decline in species in ecological islands occurs be- cause they often do not contain enough habitat for all of the species that live within them. Wide-ranging animals are es- pecially affected. Small islands of habitat also reduce popu- lations, sometimes below levels needed for successful reproduction. Tiny fragments of habitat often lead to inter- breeding among members of a small population. This may result in inferior offspring, which are less fit. Small, isolated patches of habitat may also have different abiotic conditions from larger patches, making them less hospitable to species. Finally, human activities on the margins may affect the bi- otic and abiotic conditions.

Nonetheless, isolated patches can offer many benefits. Central Park in New York City, for example, is listed as one of the nation’s 14 best bird watching sites. Why? Because it contains a variety of habitats and is strategically located along East Coast migration routes. It is one of the few places a migrating bird can stop and rest along the heavily popu- lated Northeast coast.

To date, more than 10,000 sites similar to this in 167 na- tions have been classified as Important Bird Areas in coun- tries such as Russia, Paraguay, South Africa, and the United States. Because of this designation, many have received in- creased protection.

The success of protected areas can be enhanced by es- tablishing buffer zones around them. A buffer zone is a region in which limited human activity is allowed—for example, timber cutting or cattle grazing.

High priority

Priority 60˚

30˚

30˚

60˚

150˚120˚90˚60˚30˚0˚30˚60˚90˚120˚150˚

60˚

30˚

30˚

150˚ 120˚ 90˚ 60˚ 30˚ 0˚ 30˚ 60˚ 90˚ 120˚ 150˚

FIGURE 11-14 Biological hot spots. High-priority (dark red) and priority (light red) regions in need of protection to preserve important plants, animals, and other species.

 

 

CHAPTER 11: Preserving Biological Diversity 217

SPOTLIGHT ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

11-2 Debt-for-Nature Swaps

In 1984, Dr. Thomas E. Lovejoy, then with the World Wildlife Federation, proposed a new idea to help less developed na- tions set aside biologically rich areas. It is called the debt- for-nature swap. What is this?

As you will learn in Chapter 26, many LDCs have enor- mous debt—money they owe to the wealthier nations of the world who helped them finance oil development, agri- cultural equipment, dams, and other projects. Many of these nations are having trouble paying off their debt. What Lovejoy proposed was a trade of sorts. He suggested that the nations who owed money might agree to set aside land in exchange for some debt relief (FIGURE 1). By reduc- ing debt, countries could free up money badly needed for other goals—among them literacy, health care, and sustain- able development.

In a debt-for-nature swap, some of a less developed country’s foreign debt can be exchanged for a commit- ment to invest in local conservation programs. A debt- for-nature swap typically involves three parties: a country in debt, a nation or bank to which the debt is owed, and an entity (an international nongovernmental organiza- tion, or NGO) that purchases the country’s debt, usually at a significant discount. In a typical debt-for-nature swap, Country A, which owes a bank or a government a large sum of money (say, $10 million), sells its debt to an NGO at a considerable discount (for example, 10 to 20 cents on

the dollar). In this scenario, the NGO would pay the cred- itor $1 to $2 million, and the entire debt would be forgiven. In exchange for the NGO’s purchasing the debt, the debtor nation would enter into an agreement with the NGO to invest a certain amount of money in wildlife parks or other conservation measures.

Three international environmental NGOs based in Wash- ington, D.C., have played a major role in promoting these swaps: Conservation International, the Nature Conservancy, and the World Wildlife Fund. The first ever debt-for-nature swap initiated by Conservation International occurred in 1987 in Bolivia. The agreement between Bolivia and Con- servation International resulted in a commitment on the part of the Bolivian government to protect an area of biolog- ical importance in return for a small debt reduction. Con- servation International purchased $650,000 of debt at an 85% discount. In exchange for the debt, the Bolivian gov- ernment agreed to provide $250,000 in local currency to help manage the newly established Beni Biosphere Reserve, to create several new protected areas nearby, and to ensure that the forest in a vast tract of adjacent land would be managed sustainably.

Since the first debt-for-nature swaps in Bolivia, simi- lar deals have been struck in Ecuador, Costa Rica, Mexico, Madagascar, and the Philippines.

Although debt-for-nature swaps help debtor nations reduce debt payments and allow them to convert foreign debt into local currency obligations, such deals are not without problems. First, there is concern for the sovereignty of debtor nations. Understandably, many countries do not want outsiders dictating their environmental and mone- tary policy priorities any more than they already are. Sec- ond, some governments and peoples are particularly sensitive to foreign investment in their countries.

Creditors also experience benefits and costs. Commer- cial banks, for example, receive immediate cash payment for selling a debt. This is money that they may have never seen had the debtor nations defaulted on their obligations. Some governments give tax credits to the banks for such swaps, helping reduce their losses. NGOs and environmentalists benefit because they help to both reduce debt and poverty and protect the environment.

Debt-for-nature swaps are not a panacea. They repre- sent only one way of protecting biodiversity, but they’re a step in the right direction. Existing programs have sparked a great deal of enthusiasm and hope, and they have in- fused conservation and environmental efforts with badly needed money.

FIGURE 1 Debt-for-nature swaps are another means of setting aside land to protect biodiversity. Photo taken along the Manú River in Peru.

 

 

218 PART IV. Resource Issues: Solutions for a Sustainable Society

Another potentially important new idea in wildlife pro- tection is the wildlife corridor, a strip of land that connects habitats set aside to protect species. Wildlife corridors al- low species to migrate from one habitat to another, breeding with members of other subpopulations. This, in turn, in- creases genetic diversity within a species, ensuring a better chance of survival. Connections between islands also open up new habitat. Food shortages encountered in one region, for example, can be offset by migrating to another area.

The state of Florida and the Nature Conservancy are currently developing a series of wildlife corridors to protect the endangered Everglades panther, which has been rele- gated to a few patches of land widely dispersed throughout the state. If efforts to connect them are successful, the pan- ther may someday roam much more freely in search of food and mates, hopefully living in relative harmony with the human population.

KEY CONCEPTS

Extractive Reserves Another way of protecting vital habi- tat in less developed nations is the extractive reserve, land set aside for native people to use on a sustainable basis (FIG- URE 11-15). Huge tracts of rain forest in tropical countries, for example, are being preserved for sustainable harvesting of rubber, nuts, fruits, and other products. While providing a sustainable income, the reserves also help protect native species (see Spotlight on Sustainable Development 12-1).

Interestingly, several studies show that income from ex- tractive reserves actually exceeds revenues generated from agriculture, grazing, and lumber on the same land. Officials halted a project to create a plantation in the rain forest of the African nation of Niger. They decided to let the rain forest regrow after economic analysis showed that the economic and social benefits of a sustainable harvest from the intact forest outstripped those expected from the proposed project.

The world’s very first extractive reserve was established in the Brazilian Amazon, and since that time, 45 additional reserves have been established, protecting 5.8 million hectares (14.3 million acres) of rain forest. Proponents eventually hope to establish reserves on 10% of the Amazon’s rain for- est, about 40 million hectares (100 million acres). Encour- aged by Brazil’s success, several other less developed countries have established forest and lake reserves.

Although extractive reserves are an important compo- nent of the global plan to protect native species, it should be underscored that sustainable harvesting is vital to their success. Interestingly, scientists are finding huge tracts of jungle through- out the world that are inhabited by hunters and gatherers that are depleted or nearly depleted of animal species by native peoples in search for food, giving rise to a new term, defauna- tion (loss of fauna in an otherwise healthy ecosystem).

Islands of habitat are vital to protect species, but they may not be enough to prevent species loss. Buffer zones between human activities and protected areas may provide an additional mea- sure of protection. Wildlife corridors, areas that permit wildlife to move from one protected area to another, are also proving vi- tal in the efforts to protect species diversity.

KEY CONCEPTS

Improving Wildlife Management Besides establishing pro- tected areas, buffer zones, and connecting corridors, efforts are needed to improve the way we manage fish and wildlife and the ecosystems they depend on. Most important are ef- forts to regulate harvests of fish and other commercially im- portant species to avoid depletion. Steps are also needed to restore damaged wildlife habitat. Ideas on proper management of forests and rangelands are presented in the next chapter.

One of the most important ideas to come along in this field in recent years is the notion of ecosystem manage- ment. This calls for management of entire ecosystems—not just single species. It also instructs us in the practice of pro- tecting all of the vital habitat a species requires—not just isolated sections of it.

KEY CONCEPTS Saving species and protecting biodiversity will require many improvements in wildlife management—especially the adoption of ecosystem management, which takes a broader view of species protection.

Protected lands can be sustainably harvested by indigenous peoples to protect biodiversity. These extractive reserves create a long-term source of food and income for native peoples that often exceed the economic benefits of timber harvesting and other short-term, environmentally destructive measures. The key to the success of this approach, however, is sustainable harvesting.

FIGURE 11-15 Harvesting the rain forest sustainably. Many products like fruit, rubber, and nuts can be harvested from the world’s remaining rain forests without creating any damage to the plants, wildlife, and its long-term productivity. This helps to protect natural resources and preserve indigenous populations.

 

 

CHAPTER 11: Preserving Biological Diversity 219

The Biodiversity Treaty In 1992, the nations of the world met in Rio de Janeiro to sign a biological diversity treaty. Unlike other international treaties, this one focuses on biodiversity, not just threatened or endangered species. Cur- recently ratified by more than 175 nations, the treaty calls on each member nation to develop a national conservation strategy. This is a detailed plan to manage and protect biological diversity.

Personal Solutions As in all environmental issues, individuals can make important contributions. By practicing the principles of sustainability, you can become an important part of the solution. Here are some guidelines:

1. Use only what you need, and use all resources efficiently.

2. Recycle and buy recycled products.

3. Increase your reliance on renewable resources like wind energy and economical forms of solar energy and support government programs aimed at increasing their use.

4. Help restore ecosystems; support groups that take an active role in these efforts.

5. Limit your family size; support private and government efforts throughout the world to provide family planning services and other means to help slow the growth of the human population.

You can also help educate others. Join groups and spread the word through educational campaigns, lobbying, television ads, posters, books, and pamphlets. Support organiza-

tions and politicians that address population growth, habitat destruction, overharvesting of fish and other resources, and other environmental problems.

Progress in protecting biodiversity has been considerable. However, for most species, the situation is growing worse. The expanding human population and our grow- ing demand for resources threaten to destroy hundreds of thousands of species in short order. The time for action is now. The next decade is extremely crucial—not just to the species that share this planet with us, but for ourselves.

KEY CONCEPTS

To the conservationist, what is civilized in us is not music, literature, cinema, or architecture, although they represent tremendous accomplishment, but a compassion for all living things and a willingness to do more than simply care.

—Daniel D. Chiras

Saving species and protecting biodiversity require personal actions. We cannot wait for the government or business to solve the problems for us.

CRITICAL THINKING

Exercise Analysis Before joining your neighbor, you would probably want to examine his basic premise—that coyotes are killing a large number of his sheep. Can you accept his assertion? Is he exaggerating? Is he biased by hatred for coyotes? What is the true extent of the damage? Is he a reliable source? Do his losses merit the economic and environmental costs—or the legal risk—of the control measures he is proposing?

Next, you might want to know if poisoning coyotes would decrease wildlife populations on your ranch—and hence, your future income. Poisons that kill a coyote may be transferred to other animals that feed on the carcass. Furthermore, you would want to consider whether the killing of coyotes would increase the number of rabbits (which coyotes prey on) on your property—and thus decrease the amount of grass your sheep can eat. Moreover, do you really need to kill all of the coyotes to make the sheep safe? Are there other ways to control coyote predation that are less damaging to the environment and more economically sound?

 

 

220 PART IV. Resource Issues: Solutions for a Sustainable Society

CRITICAL THINKING AND CONCEPT REVIEW 1. Using your critical thinking skills, analyze the follow-

ing statement: “Extinction is a natural process. Ani- mals and plants become extinct whether or not humans are present. Therefore, we have little to be concerned about.”

2. List and describe the factors that contribute directly to animal and plant extinction. Which ones are the most important?

3. Trophy hunters generally try to shoot the dominant males in a population. Natural predators, on the other hand, remove the sick, weak, and aged members of the population. Using your knowledge of ecology and evolution, in what ways are trophy hunting and natural predation different in their effects on the prey population?

4. Why are islands particularly susceptible to introduced species?

5. Discuss the ecological factors that contribute to species extinction.

6. Describe the concept of keystone species. What are its implications for the modern conservation movement?

7. You are placed in a high government position and must convince your fellow bureaucrats of the importance of preserving other species. How would you do this?

8. Outline a general plan for preserving species diversity. What measures are short term in nature, and what measures are long term? What measures are stopgap, and what measures are preventive?

9. Using your critical thinking skills and your understand- ing of ecology and human systems, analyze the follow- ing statement: “Setting aside land is all well and good, but aside from leaving pristine lands for the elite few who will be allowed to enjoy them, the benefits of this strategy are minimal, even in the long term. The loss of taxable land in this country impacts many, whereas the increase in biodiversity is barely measurable.”

10. In Chapter 2, Figure 2-3 presented a model to show how principles of sustainable development can be ap- plied to human systems. How will the application of that model to systems such as agriculture, energy, waste management, and housing affect the planet’s wealth of wild species?

KEY TERMS accelerated extinction buffer zone commercial hunting Convention on International Trade in

Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)

debt-for-nature swap defaunation

ecological islands ecosystem management ecotourism endangered species Endangered Species Act extractive reserve harvesting keystone species

national conservation strategy natural extinction poaching sport hunting subsistence hunting threatened species wildlife corridor

Connect to this book’s website: http://environment.jbpub.com/9e/ The site features eLearning, an online review area that provides quizzes, chapter outlines, and other tools to help you study for your class. You can also follow useful links for in-depth information, research the differing views in the Point/Counterpoints, or keep up on the latest environmental news.

REFERENCES AND FURTHER READING To save on paper and allow for updates, additional reading recommendations and the list of sources for the information discussed in this chapter are available at http://environment .jbpub.com/9e/.

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