For my topic I chose to explore biological diversity and ways that it can be destroyed, restored, and maintained. In class, we were taught that diversity is the number of distinct species of animals, insects, plants, etc. that are living in a particular area. We found out that diversity is greater in the tropics and less towards the poles. This is called the Latitude Diversity Gradient and could be due to one or more of three theories. They are the cradle hypothesis that says the area where species tend to be born is in the tropical latitudes, the museum hypothesis that says the tropical latitudes provide a better habitat for species that go extinct in other latitudes, and the destination hypothesis that says species migrate to the tropics. High rates of speciation and immigration paired with low rates of extinction also would increase diversity in tropical latitudes.
We also discussed how biological diversity is maintained when there are many species in an area competing for limited resources, and we found that competitor relationships shift over time. Species also have slightly different uses of the resources, which inhibit competitive exclusion. Additionally, diversity isn’t stagnant, but rather it changes throughout time through succession. Another topic that we talked about is why we should care about biological diversity at all. There were multiple reasons like agricultural, modern medicines, more reliable ecosystem services, or maybe we have biophilia and want to interact with other organisms.
Additionally, we discussed different measures that are being taken to save species and thus increase diversity. These included captive breeding and reintroduction programs specifically with giant pandas, bringing extinct species back to life like in the Lazarus Project, and conserving natural processes such as the Pleistocene Rewilding and national parks. We looked at extinction trends and noticed that the prediction is that extinction rates will continue to rise unless we take steps to restore and maintain biological diversity.
I furthered my exploration of biological diversity by listening to a presentation from Science Friday called Taking a Walk on New York’s Wild Side. This lecture focused on how biological diversity can exist in such an urbanized area like New York and the surrounding waters. The presenters first talked about how much diversity there is in New York for it being such an urban jungle. They made a strong point that cities and nature are not mutually exclusive. They gave many examples of species that live in the cities and the waters surrounding New York. The examples included mice, salamanders, and many insects, seals in New York Harbor, eels in the Bronx River, and many species of birds like red tails hawks and raptors. There are also whales, sea turtles, sharks, and rays in the waters. This is in addition to the many species that they didn’t name. They also briefly discussed the diversity of plant life in parks, street...