Written by Huck Ferman
Almost every day in the news and publications it is reported that people are changing the world of nature. The increased frequency of these reports indicates the growing severity and spread of these problems. The question is: will we do what is necessary to preserve the habitat that has supported us?
When we heat the Earth, one of a number of changes is the reduction of snowfall, especially in mountain ranges. This decline affects both ecosystems and the economy. Melting glaciers are lowering previous levels of water levels and flow, affecting water supply and flow in streams and rivers, as well as tourism, hydropower and food production.
Just one or two degrees of warming can prevent snow formation. As a result of warming and reduced snowfall, alpine glaciers have lost two-thirds of their volume since 1850. If this continues, all or most of the glaciers there will disappear. The parallel melting of the Himalayan glaciers, which supply water to millions of people, would be an incalculable catastrophe.
Some are trying to save snow and glaciers by covering them and protecting them from the sun, but it is unclear whether this will be effective.
Another part of our ecosystem that needs to be saved is, oddly enough, insects. While most of us at first would be happy to get rid of them, we must remember that they are some of the greatest pollinators in the world, without which we would have much less fruit and less coffee. We would also have fewer birds and some animals as they feed on them. And some insects help to break down or decompose organic matter – necessary for fertilization of new generations of plants.
An important step needed to conserve insects is the elimination of harmful pesticides that have reduced the population of bees and other insects.
The second step we can take is to expand and increase the number of preserved green spaces, such as the D&R Greenway Land Trust and others, which allow us to regenerate or plant flowers and flowering trees. Expanding the use of composting and reducing sources of pollution will also help insects whose viability helps ours. Supporting societal education of farmers and other landowners can help conserve vegetation and insects that benefit us.
On a larger scale, as we have seen in California and Colorado, the frequency of forest fires is increasing. Australia and the Arctic have also been hit by devastating forest fires. Forecasts warn that the number and range of forest fires could increase by more than 50% by the end of the century.
There is a growing recognition of the need for controlled or prescribed combustion to prevent uncontrolled extensive forest fires caused by drought and lack of management. In Africa, an increase in the area devoted to agriculture has reduced the area devastated by forest fires. On the other hand, in Brazil, increased agricultural land has been cut down from the Amazon forests, which have been leaders in carbon sequestration. Without them global warming is likely to increase.
The conclusion from these numerous and now frequent reports is that we live in a complex series of ecosystems which, as it becomes clear, we need to manage as experiencedly and actively as possible.