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Conservation Biology
Conservation Biology

Conservation Biology Questions

Bring on the tough stuff

1. What are three categories into which biodiversity can be divided and that conservation biologists work to preserve?

Biodiversity can be divided into organismal diversity (species, genera, and so on), ecological diversity (populations, communities, habitats, ecosystems and biomes) and genetic diversity (nucleotides, genes, chromosomes, genomes, individuals and populations).

2. Invasive species can threaten native species through hybridization, but sometimes conservation biologists purposely hybridize endangered species with other species or subspecies, like the Florida and Texas panthers. Why is hybridization okay sometimes but not others?

When an invasive species hybridizes with a native species, the concern is that the native species will lose its genetic identity and the other species or subspecies' genes will inundate the native species' genome.

When conservation biologists breed endangered species with closely related species (or subspecies, in the case of the panthers) they are trying to avoid inbreeding depression. The genome of the endangered species has lost so much genetic variation that it impacts survival and reproduction, and the species might go extinct.

A key difference is that hybridization with invasive species just happens out in the wild. Small amounts of hybridization might not harm the native species (after all, that is one way evolution works) but rates of hybridization with invasive species have to be tested and monitored by scientists.

Hybridization or interbreeding of endangered species is only used in a few cases when scientists recognize inbreeding depression as a severe threat to a species. It only works when the organisms in question can and will actually mate.

3. How does conservation biology take evolution into account?

Experiments test the evolutionary consequences of small populations. Conservation planning tries to protect evolutionary processes such as gene flow. Isolation, small population sizes and inbreeding depression are avoided if possible.

4. Name the biggest threats to biodiversity.

  • Habitat loss
      
  • Invasive species
      
  • Overexploitation
      
  • Climate change (You could also say pollution, though currently climate change is the pollution problem that is most threatening to biodiversity)

5. What are a few ecosystem services mangroves provide?
Nurseries for commercially important fish, filtration of run-off from land before it enters the ocean, protecting coastal areas from storms, and storing carbon.

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