Monday 05 September 2016

Cherish the complexity of the web of life


September is nationally observed as Biodiversity Month, in recognition of the complexity and significance of the ecosystems that sustain the natural environment. Healthy ecosystems are also important to humans for a range of economic, recreational and cultural reasons.
 
Not so long ago, for example, mangrove forests were considered by many to be mosquito infested wastelands, waiting to be destroyed and the land ‘reclaimed’ for development. Now they are acknowledged not only as vital habitat for native fauna, but also necessary for maintaining resilient waterways and healthy fish stocks.
 
September 7 is a particularly poignant day. Recognised as Threatened Species Day, it commemorates the death 80 years ago of the last known thylacine (Tasmanian Tiger). Unfortunately we have not yet fully learned the lesson that the thylacine’s fate should have taught us, as more species of fauna and flora are added to ‘threatened’, ‘endangered’ and ‘extinct’ lists each year.
 
Most people thinking about the threats faced by whales
 
For many people thinking about the threats to whales, issues such as harpoons, entanglement, harassment and ship-strike come to mind. Yet without a robust ecosystem to sustain them, their very existence could be called into question.
 
The effects of climate change are already being detected in the world’s oceans, with rising temperatures and increased acidity. If this situation continues we could also see alterations in ocean currents and upwellings. All these have the potential to interfere with the tiny organisms that are the basis of the oceanic food chain.
 
Disruption to the productivity of bacterioplankton, phytoplankton, and zooplankton in the Southern Ocean could have a devastating impact on the abundance of Antarctic krill. Most great whale species in these waters are sustained by krill. Seals, penguins, fish and seabirds depend on them as well. So much so that a significant drop in the availability of krill could have an immediate and devastating impact on the Antarctic food web.
 
Biodiversity Month is a good time to think about our actions as consumers. Where products we buy are sourced, how they are produced, how we use them and how we dispose of the waste all matter. By making informed decisions and acting thoughtfully we can all contribute to a sustainable future.


AWCS

Dedicated to

cetacean

conservation,

education and

research