VCE Geography: Unit 3 Resources
VCE Geography: Unit 3 Resources
Managing our Natural Resources: Biodiversity
What is Biodiversity?
All life on this planet depends, directly or indirectly, on interactions within ecosystems. These ecosystems involve complex webs of animals and plants living in particular places and attempting to adapt to changing environmental and physical conditions. The biodiversity of a particular ecosystem is a 'soup-mix' of all life forms present in that ecosystem.
There are four main reasons why biodiversity should be considered a natural resource worthy of management and preservation:
Biodiversity is the total range of genes, species and ecosystems in a region. In other words, it is the variety of all life forms. Of course, no species exists in isolation from other species, so displacing or placing pressure on one species will cause ripple effects on a wide range of other life forms.
Extinctions and Biodiversity
Extinctions have a dramatic impact on biodiversity. Although extinctions are part of the natural order, plant and animal species are currently being lost at an alarming rate, greater than the rate of evolution of new species. By the Year 2010, between 40,000 and 50,000 animal species will be lost annually. A similar number of plants will face extinction by 2045. The loss of one plant can result in the loss of many insects and other animals that depend on it.
By far the greatest cause of extinctions is the destruction of natural habitat for farming, settlement, fuel, industry and other uses. Other main causes are introduced species, pollution of soil, water and atmosphere, overfishing, over-hunting, trade in wildlife and global climate change. It is often the activities of people that are causing a reduction in biodiversity. What is the likely impact of an increasing human population on biodiversity?
There are means of measuring or monitoring biodiversity that do not rely on assessing the status of every species. In reality, it is neither possible nor practicable to examine and measure every know species in every known ecosystem. Therefore, target, flagship or key indicator groups are selected to measure biodiversity. It is assumed that changes in biodiversity have occurred when changes in key indicator groups are detected. Useful key indicator groups include those that are easily observed, recognised and studied through collection or tagging.
Information on key indicator groups can be sourced in two ways. We can directly accumulate raw data from fieldwork or we can access raw data that has been collected and stored by others. Raw data from direct field work can paint a picture of current biodiversity, while stored raw data can create a window to the past that allows us to examine the effects that different environmental or physical conditions have had on biodiversity. The information base we create through the utilisation of stored raw data provides us with the knowledge and predictive skills to better manage biodiversity as a present and future resource.
The prime source of stored raw data on biodiversity is in the collections of museums, herbaria and other such institutions throughout the world. This raw data can be accessed manually or through recently developed computer based tools. One such tool is Museum Victoria's Bioinformatics web site. This software gives direct access to databases that store raw data on Victorian butterflies, frogs, snakes, mammals and lizards. It then converts the raw data into information that allows the user to investigate nomenclatural and spatial and temporal interactions for key indicator species and groups.
Introductory Activity: Raw Data to Information Base
How many times have you heard the phrases "If only I had known beforehand" or "In hindsight, I would have done it differently"? Well, quite often such information for informed decision-making is readily available but is embedded in raw data that first must be analysed and converted into a useable information base.Procedure:
Major Project 1: An Environmental Impact Study at Wilson's Promontory
Here is a project designed to demonstrate the value of sourcing stored raw data through the Internet and converting it into valuable information. It will involve both full class and assigned individual tasks.
The scenario is as follows: Commercial development of the Wilson's Promontory National Park is being considered and your company, Ecology Victoria, has been contracted to conduct an Environmental Impact Study on the faunal biodiversity of this area. The funding for the entire project, which includes staff and fieldwork time, is restricted to a three month period. As director of the company, you decide to use butterflies as your key indicator group and that the project will run from January to March.
You instruct your staff that the Environmental Impact Statement must include the following information:
Using the Bioinformatics Website
There is no need for you to spend three very busy months at Wilson's Promontory collecting raw data. (Sorry!) You will obtain much more complete information in a much shorter time from the knowledge base that already exists. The raw data from countless field trips by entomologists over many decades has been used to create the Butterflies Database on Museum Victoria's Bioinformatics website: http://www.museum.vic.gov.au/bioinformatics/. Select 'Butterflies' from this site, and use the menu on the right to assemble the information that you need for your report.
If you need a little assistance to navigate the site, the following menu options relate to the 9 steps involved in producing the Environmental Impact Statement (above)
Major Project 2: Butterflies of Your District
This project will enable you to research the butterflies that have been recorded in the district or suburb in which you live, by using the Bioinformatics website: http://www.museum.vic.gov.au/bioinformatics/
Once at the Bioinformatics site, click on 'Butterflies', then scroll down the right-hand menu until you reach When & Where: Date & Location. Click on this and scroll down to 'Location', which provides a menu of locations in Victoria. Find and highlight your district or suburb, then scroll down and click 'Submit Query' to create a list of recorded butterflies. This can be done as a class; your teacher can then allocate one (or more) butterfly species to each student to research.
For each species:
By now, you should be familiar with the way the site works.