Conservation

Making Wise Choices

Conservation is the wise use of natural resources (nutrients, minerals, water, plants, animals, etc.) and cultural resources (different groups of people from different parts of the world). It may also include protecting the large collections of resources that make up a habitat or environment. Conservation is important to make certain changes don’t happen too quickly. Rapid change can force animals, plants, places, or people to become endangered or extinct.

What Are Natural Resources?

Cultural resources such as stories, sacred ceremonies, and foods are valuable.

Cultural resources such as stories, sacred ceremonies, and foods are valuable. They are important in preserving the planet’s diversity.

©G.Ellis/GLOBIO.org

Natural resources are things in nature that we use. Some of these things - like water, air, and wood - are easy to identify. Some resources are not so obvious. A good example is oil (petroleum). Oil is used to make gasoline for cars and trucks. Oil is also important in making plastics. Plastics are used in countless things including TVs, computers, and cars. Another “hidden resource” is sand. Different sands are melted to make glass. Glass is used to make windows, bottles, jars, and many other common items.

What Are Cultural Resources?

People and their cultures can also be a resource. Different cultures give us a variety of art, music, myths, medicines, foods, and languages. Conserving cultural resources makes certain we live in a world full of diversity and different ideas.

Conservation's Double Goal

You can think of conservation as a goal with two parts:

  1. The protection of valued resources - the preservation, management, and care of natural and cultural resources
  2. Protection from change - the keeping or protecting of something from change, loss, or damage

Why Do We Need To Conserve?

One answer is very simple. We need to conserve to make certain we have resources for ourselves and for people in the future. Conservation will allow future generations to enjoy natural resources such as clean rivers and lakes, wilderness areas, a diverse wildlife population, healthy soil, and clean air.

Resources Are Necessary for Life!

Many natural resources are necessary for our survival. It may be difficult to imagine that we could ever run out of fresh water, clean air, and good soil for growing food. But in some places this is already happening.

First Understand, Then Plan

Plants, animals, herbs, and other forest products are often illegally taken from protected forests and sold in markets.

Plants, animals, herbs, and other forest products are often illegally taken from protected forests and sold in markets. Taking products illegally from protected places is called poaching.

©G.Ellis/GLOBIO.org

Understanding how to conserve means taking a look at the big picture. We need to look at all the resources and how people use them. We also need to remember that animals and plants need many of these same resources. Then we need to come up with a good plan that will share the resources among all living things.

Conservationists: People Who Save the World from Destruction

People devoted to the preservation of cultural and natural resources are called conservationists. Conservationists do many kinds of work. Some study endangered species to find the best ways to help them survive. Others work on finding ways to protect rivers, lakes, forests, and other environments. They also make plans to help environments and resources recover from damage. In addition, conservationists educate others about conservation.

Everyone Can Help

Some people are professional conservationists. They may work for national parks, zoos, or organizations like the World Wildlife Fund for Nature. Ordinary people are conservationists, too. They volunteer their time or give money to help conservation projects. Every town and country has people like this.

Conservationists You Should Know

Some conservationists become famous because their work saves an animal, place, or culture from disappearing. Below are the names of some famous conservationists and details about their work.

  • Jane Goodall has helped protect chimpanzees in Africa.
  • John Muir helped pioneer the idea of national parks in the United States.
  • Anna Merz has worked to ensure the survival of black rhinoceroses in Kenya.
  • Laurie Marker has helped people understand the importance of protecting cheetahs in Africa.
The conservationist Jane Goodall observes a chimpanzee in Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania, Africa.

The conservationist Jane Goodall observes a chimpanzee in Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania, Africa. Jane Goodall is famous for her work with chimpanzees.

©G.Ellis/GLOBIO.org

Biodiversity: A Top Priority

Most scientists believe that conservation of biodiversity should be the most important thing people and governments work on. Preserving biodiversity will help ensure a healthy planet for all living things.

Variety Is Good

Conserving biodiversity makes sure that as many living things survive as possible. This is important to humans because there are still many undiscovered plant and animal species. For example, some plants contain chemicals that may help cure or prevent diseases like cancer. These plants may grow in a place no one has explored. If we destroy a place’s biodiversity, we may never know that there was a species of plant that could have provided an important cure.

Stopping the Destruction

Conserving biodiversity starts by not destroying or damaging the environments we have left on Earth. Human activities like cutting trees, draining wetlands, polluting the air and water, and overfishing are endangering wild areas such as rainforests, wetlands, rivers, and oceans.

Keeping a Balance

Different types of environments exist all over our planet. Each type of environment has its own special weather, plants and animals, water supply, minerals, and other resources. Everything is in balance. Life in that environment depends on all its resources for survival. If any of the resources are removed too fast or removed completely, it destroys the balance. When an environment is out of balance, many living things may have trouble surviving.

Fires cause significant losses of forest and habitat each year.

Fires cause significant losses of forest and habitat each year. Some forests are cleared using fire, to make room for crops and livestock. Lightning during the dry season starts others.

©G.Ellis/GLOBIO.org

Staying Connected

Conservation is also important because all the living things in an environment are connected. For example, when we cut a forest for the wood, we take more than just trees. We also take away the balance, so the environment no longer works like a forest for all the organisms living there.

Missing Connections

When we replant the trees, it helps replace the wood we took. But all the other resources may be out of balance or damaged. The replanted area is just trees for many years until all the plants and animals become stable again. In some environments, this may take 100 years or more. If the environment is too badly damaged, the balance may never return. This may cause the extinction of some species.

Keeping It All Together

Scientists and conservationists believe the best way to preserve cultural and biological diversity is by protecting large pieces of the environment. For example, they may encourage governments to protect an entire wetlands or a large section of tropical rainforest. A second way is to connect environments with corridors where wildlife and plants can move without being detected.  

Start Being a Conservationist Today

A conservationist looks for conservation solutions and then takes action. Think about paper. One of the biggest uses of trees is paper products. Cardboard and paper can be recycled. When paper products are recycled, fewer trees need to be cut. Making paper products also uses a lot of water, so reducing paper use also saves water. What are some ways you could help conserve trees and water?

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

Using less paper, reusing paper, and recycling paper saves trees and water. Recycling aluminum cans will save money, resources, and prevent pollution. For example, it takes much less energy to recycle an aluminum soft drink can than it does to make a new one. Making energy uses up resources like oil and coal. So just by recycling the aluminum cans you use, you become an instant conservationist!

Every Little Bit Helps

Making compost - a mix of dead plants and dirt - and adding it to soil helps make the soil richer and healthier.

Making compost - a mix of dead plants and dirt - and adding it to soil helps make the soil richer and healthier. Rich soil is important for growing food.

©G.Ellis/GLOBIO.org

Conservation consists of big and small efforts. Saving animal species like the giant panda, elephant, and orangutan from extinction may take a big effort from many individuals and governments. But you and your school class can do your part, too. For example, you could raise money to buy an acre of rainforest to protect it from logging and other damaging uses. You can contact a local conservation organization. Ask about ways your class might help with conservation right in your own community!