Tag Archives: ecosystems management

Intangible Things as Institutions Towards Attaining Environmental Sustainability

How can people’s beliefs help keep the environment from destruction? Is there a relationship between intangible things and environmental sustainability? This article shows how indigenous people’s thoughts, beliefs or cultures contribute to environmental sustainability.

The environment is defined as the totality of tangible and intangible things that surround us. Those things that can normally perceive by our five senses are considered as tangible things while things like norms, values, beliefs, culture and traditions are some of the intangible things that greatly influence one’s behavior.

The Pala’wan, an indigenous group of people once living in the hinterlands of Palawan Island in the Philippines, are usually known for these things. They have lots of beliefs and practices that they kept for thousands of years as part of their culture. These beliefs and practices are linked with the environment. Thus, they managed the natural resources effectively.  Their ways are  compatible with the environment as they adopt simple living (Docto, 2008).

The Pala’wan‘s cultural identities, social and spiritual relationships are deeply originated in their area and they believe that the environment is governed by gods and goddesses. In this way, they contribute to the conservation and protection of the environment for they respect their sacred resources (Tauli-Corpuz et al., 2010).

Fear of Owls and Night Herons

The Pala’wans are afraid of birds such as owls and night herons, locally known as “gukgok” and “tikwara,” respectively.

What really are the beliefs of the Pala’wans about these species? What causes them to cringe with terror as they hear the sound of these birds?

Let us take a deeper look on these unfounded fear among the indigenous peoples (IPs).

Do not Touch, Catch nor Even Mimic the Calls! You Better Hide Instead!

Through an interview with my dad, I’ve found that the Pala’wans who generally live in the remote areas of southern Palawan, particularly in Quezon and Rizal, harbor the fear of the Rufous Night-heron and the Palawan Scops-owl.

They should not touch, catch or even mimic the calls of these birds, particularly the owl, for they will suffer once they do. They should hide whenever they hear these creatures.

Although my dad is a Pala’wan, and of course I’m a Pala’wan too, we do not subscribe to this belief. However, the IPs in Quezon and Rizal still adhere to this belief; and I know that these beliefs helped conserve the natural resources of the place.

What is the Belief about the Rufous Night-Heron (Nycticorax caledonicus)?
Night Heron
Night heron. Picture modified from Frank Schulenberg@Flickr.com (cc)

The rufous night-heron, locally known as “tikwara,” is believed to be owned or is a pet of an unseen person. Anyone who dares touch, catch or even imitate the sound that this bird makes will get sick, and even die as a result.

A curse befalls a person if he violates this rule. To be relieved of this curse, he needs to consult an albularyo (a local medicine man) to humbly ask for forgiveness. He goes through a series of rituals; and this is the only remedy to stop the evil consequences.

18 Species of Insects from a Ceiling Lamp

This article demonstrates how deviating from a dull routine can lead one towards discovery. Find out how a little shift in one’s behavior can produce unusual information.

One night, I noticed that the ceiling lamp over our dining table got dimmer than usual. When I looked up, I saw that the central part of the lamp had a dark shade of dirt that blocked the light from going through the glass cover. Ah, the pesky insects once again got trapped on the concave part of the round plate of glass.

I got an aluminum ladder and carefully removed the rounded nut of one of the three bolts that pinned the glass covering metal holder. When I held down the glass, the following mass of winged insects attracted by the light at night greeted me.

insects
A mass of insect remains inside the glass cover of the ceiling lamp.

Instinctively, I walked towards the door to get rid of the “dirt” and clean the glass covering. On second thought, however, I paused and contemplated if I can make out something out of this mass of apparently insignificant stuff.

I went out the other door towards the porch and laid the chaotic array of broken wings. As I did so, distinct shapes and sizes of insects came into focus as I ran my fingers through it.

The picture below shows the 18 species of winged insects that I discovered from the messy collection.

insects
Species of insects sorted out from a mass of insect parts taken from the ceiling lamp.

The pile of material consisted of wasps, moths, winged termites and ants, moth, beetles, flies, plant bugs, among others. All of the identifiable stuff are insects except no. 17 which is a shed lizard skin. This indicates that lizards fed on most of the insects attracted by the light as they get trapped inside the glass cover.

Reflections from the Discovery

As we always try to find meaning to what we observe, I posed a question in my mind on the relevance of the things I’ve found. Are the things I’ve found of any value at all?

While this discovery may not be a ground breaking one, I believe that I have supplied information found nowhere else in print or online. This information may be of special significance to an entomologist.

From what I could make out from this discovery, the collection of insects in the glass covering of the ceiling lamp represents the diversity of living organisms next to our place lying next to forested lots. These insects live and die in the often inundated “bangkal” (Nauclea orientalis) forest once marked by termite mounds. These insects compose the forest ecosystem as intermediaries of nutrient cycling. They are agents that transport nutrients all over the place. Without insects, nutrients remain in the soil and will not be made available in the chain of predator and prey interactions. And these interactions influence human life (see the mango weevil story).

How significant are these insects to me? Well, they took my attention that made me climb a ladder, took pictures, and clean the glass cover of the ceiling lamp when I should have been out somewhere. It has sparked a chain of events that changed my usual routine and made online presence through this musing. And I gained enjoyment from my writing activity.

This is an exercise of being unconventional in one’s thinking. I broke a simple routine of just cleaning the “dirt” from the ceiling lamp. Being unconventional leads to discovery.

© 2014 September 21 P. A. Regoniel

Unconventional Solution to Water Scarcity in the Small Islands

Water scarcity in the small islands is a paramount problem that recurs yearly. Climate change appears to make this worse as rains no longer provide enough to replenish groundwater sources. Is there a technological solution to this problem? This article explores the issue in the light of personal experience.

One of the pressing issues of today’s modern world is the depletion of natural freshwater sources. This problem is especially true in small islands where people settled and gradually depleted the water reserves as the island’s population increases due to both in-migration and natural reproduction.

Water scarcity occurs when the carrying capacity, that is when water consumption exceeds the island’s capacity to replenish its store of water. Unless people living in the islands are well aware of this possibility, exceeding the island’s capacity to regenerate its freshwater sources is the eminent, expected result of too many people living in the island.

Solution to Water Scarcity in the Small Islands

A few days ago, this issue has come into play as I was one of those requested by a local government institution tasked to ensure sustainable development in the province. Together with stakeholders from island municipalities, we discussed the environmental concerns of people living in the islands. I was part of the sociocultural sector group that deliberated threats to resource sustainability in the islands.

One of the major concerns of the island communities is the lack of water particularly on those days when rains that replenish the groundwater sources are not available. Some of the people have adapted to this condition by designing structures to catch rain water and store these for use during the dry months.

alone in the island
Beneath the small island is a rich diversity of marine life, human artifacts, among others.

This approach seems to go well, but people complaining about water scarcity means that the issue still bogs them. For those who cannot afford to build large structures to keep them sufficiently supplied with freshwater, this is a real problem; except on those cases where an enterprising member of the population undertakes an unconventional solution that trickle down to the public. I describe this simple but working solution below.

Piped Fresh Water from Abundant Water Sources

Several months back, while searching for a place where our research team can take a bath in Bulawit, one of several islands in northern Palawan, I met an ice-manufacturing businessman. He has a considerable stock of freshwater in large tanks in his house despite the difficulty that other communities in the other islands experience.

We inquired a little about this maverick in the midst of freshwater scarcity, and we discovered that he figured out a simple solution to the perennial freshwater problem many people in the community encountered.

woman fills up container
A woman fills up a container with freshwater in Bulawit or New Colaylayan.

With an air of confidence, he explained to us that a few years back, he looked for a good source of freshwater in the adjoining islands and laid down PVC pipes underwater from that place to his house funding everything by himself!

He made a good business out of it. He supplied the freshwater needs of other people in the community for a small fee. He converted a problem into an opportunity. No wonder he’s the richest man in the island.

Is the Businessman’s Solution a Sustainable One?

If the businessman continues to run his water business for some time, chances are, the source of freshwater will get depleted as more people avail of piped water he draws out from the other island assuming natural increase in island population through time. However, if better technology becomes available before the water carrying capacity of the island is exceeded, such as the discovery of a low-cost desalination system or efficient water recycling system, freshwater availability should not be a problem.

Alternatively, natural, long-term remedies such as reforestation or watershed enhancement will help slow down water runoff and help increase the groundwater storage. Without these measures in place, situations such as that in Nangalao Island, will continue to persist.

If all else fails, the only long-term solution is for the people to leave the small islands and live in large islands or continents where freshwater abound.

© 2014 September 6 P. A. Regoniel

Solution to World Hunger: Eat the r Strategists

How can world hunger be resolved? The answer: through eating the r strategists! What are r-strategists and how can these animals help relieve pressure on animal populations that traditionally serve as human food? This article explores the possibility of consuming alternative food sources. 

The increasing demand for food of 7.2 billion people in the world puts pressure on conventional food sources. Thus, there is a need to explore alternative food sources. Scientists recommend the consumption of animals called r-strategists.

What are r strategists?

The so-called r-strategists are animals that reproduce so fast that chances for their populations to get depleted is much lower compared to other animals. These animals can live in unstable environments, meaning, situations and conditions where animal populations are under threat. The adaptive evolution is to have so many of their own kind. Thus saith the r/K theory that became popular in the 1970s.

For better understanding, let me define the r and the K in the r/K theory.

The r/K Theory

The r in the theory refers or comes from the word “rate.” This word reminds us to think about the rate of reproduction by which animals of this group propagate. These animals rapidly reproduce to compensate for their small size which easily become prey to other animals in the higher echelon of the food chain. And each of the offspring get less or no parental care. They can also easily adjust to environments that fluctuate. This adaptation strategy increases their chance to survive as a species.

aphids and ants
Ants and aphids are r-strategists because they rapidly reproduce and are small. These two organisms exhibit mutualism: the aphids provide the sugary honeydew they obtain from the guava to the ants while the ants provide them protection from their predators like the ladybugs (see an interesting ant defense here: http://www.pbase.com/antjes/lady_bug)

Meanwhile, the K in the theory refers to “carrying capacity.” In contrast to the r-strategists, animals that belong to this category undertake controls to their population by remaining close to the carrying capacity of their habitat. They adopt efficiency in resource use to maintain sustenance or adequate resources for each of the individuals in the face of scarce resources.

The carrying capacity of the habitat must not be exceeded to ensure the survival of these species. Thus, the K-strategists reproduce slowly, nurture their young, have larger bodies, and smaller in number compared to the r-strategists. These animals lie belong to the higher rung of the food chain, serving as “pools of nutrients” that can live in a stable habitat for a long time.

binturong
The bearcat Arctictis binturong is a K-strategist because gestation takes about 90 days and the average number of offspring per year is only two.

While recent theories like the Life History Theory supplanted the r/K theory, the terms r– and K-strategists are still used by scientists as this theory appears to be a necessary step in the study of animal adaptation to their environment. If you try to apply this theory by looking at the way animals propagate, it just makes sense. Small animals tend to produce more of their kind while the large animals reproduce slowly.

There are , however, always exceptions to any rule. For example, the bivalve Icelandic quahog (also known as black clam, Islandic cyprine, or black quahog) can live for more than 400 years! Also, the relatively small fish called orange roughy reproduce only upon reaching 20 years of age. And these fishes are estimated to live 149 years! This is the reason these fishes were not able to easily regain their population when their populations were subjected to intense fishing pressure in New Zealand, Australia and Namibia because of their popularity as food.

r-Strategists as Food?

hen and chicks
A free-ranging mother hen provides protection to its chicks.

Generally, the animals that are found acceptable by society to eat today are essentially K-strategists. These include meat coming from cows, swine, goat, chicken, among others. The last one, however, appears to lean on the r-strategists because of their short life span. Besides, these birds are domesticated and their growth is hastened to serve increasing fast food consumption demands.

We do eat fishes that are mostly r-strategists although we tend to consume too much of the wild populations. Thus, controls towards sustaining the population of these marine organisms are instituted in most countries  with intense fishing efforts.

Other r-strategists that are considered pests because of their great numbers may be considered as general food sources. For example, places like Thailand have exotic foods or foods that are generally regarded bizarre by people from other countries. These include fried crickets, earthworms, scorpions, steamed bugs, cockroaches, ant eggs and all sorts of bugs. These are all r-strategists since they reproduce rapidly but many find unpalatable despite their respectable nutritional value.

These pests are abundant in areas where people suffer malnutrition and lack of food. Is it time that these animals become a normal part of the diet? This may be the solution to world hunger. That is, if hungry people have the guts to fill their stomachs with such wiggly, wriggly and critty creatures.

Anyone ready to eat a crunchy and creamy cockroach?

References

Reznick, D.; Bryant, M. J.; and Bashey, F. ,2002. r-and K-selection revisited: the role of population regulation in life-history evolution. Ecology, 83 (6): 1509–1520. doi:10.1890/0012-9658(2002)083[1509:RAKSRT]2.0.CO;2

Schleif, M. 2013. “Arctictis binturong” (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed September 01, 2014 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/Arctictis_binturong/

© 2014 September  2 P. A. Regoniel

Palawan Greater Coucal: Three Roles in the Forest Ecosystem

What is the role of a bird such as the greater coucal, a species of cuckoo, in the forest ecosystem? How will removal of its forest habitat compromise the other components of the ecosystem? This article explains how displacement and possible extinction of a bird species can impact on their habitat as well as human society.

Barry Commoner’s first Law of Ecology in his book The Closing Circle states that everything is connected to everything else. What affects one organism affects all.

If applied at ecosystem level, this means that the ecosystem’s integrity and resilience is compromised if one or more of the component parts is lost. Whatever animal or plant you find in an ecosystem will have some special role, function or influence on the other components in that ecosystem. The ecosystem works like a clock, where removal of one apparently insignificant part may prevent it from working properly or diminish the clock’s features or function.

This ecosystem principle made me ponder about the fate of the Palawan greater coucal, a bird associated with many omens in other places, that frequent the remnant forest found at the back of our house.

I took a picture of the bird this morning and feature it below. It looks as if it has just awakened from sleep as it sluggishly clambers on a branch of a tree. It cannot sustain flight just like the other birds.

greater coucal
Palawan greater coucal Centropus sinensis.

Since the land that we now occupy is classified as commercial land, in due time, the forested lot will be gone. These birds will no longer have their special place to roost and food to feed on once the remaining patches of trees that bear fruit and sustain them are cut down to make way for housing.

Do the greater coucals and other birds matter at all? What will probably happen once they are gone?

To find out how removal of the remaining forest will impact on the bird’s population, if indeed they still exist in great numbers, I will enumerate three roles that these wild birds play in the ecosystem.

Three Roles of the Greater Coucal

The greater coucal plays an important role in the ecosystem within which they live and reproduce. They serve many purposes among which are the following specific roles:

1. Seed dispersants

The greater coucals, just like the other birds, disperse the seeds of plants from fruits that they feed on. Their feeding behavior allows the distribution of plant species across a range of habitat. As a result, the plants have a greater chance to propagate their kind.

2. Aid in nutrient cycling

As the greater coucals move or fly with effort from one place to another, the birds are able to transfer nutrients that they bring with them, i. e., in their bodies. These are nutrients derived from their food. After absorbing the necessary food elements for their metabolic needs, the birds dispose of their organic waste somewhere. Their manure serves as fertilizer to plants thus starting off once again the circulation of nutrients.

Once these birds die, dead organic matter is acted upon by the decomposers. Organic matter is broken down into humus, consisting of minerals and other compounds that are available for plant use. Thus, with the aid of birds, poor nutrient areas are enriched.

3. Pest control

The greater coucals also feed on insects and even snails. Such feeding behavior help control their prey which in large numbers become pests. Economic problems can arise due to a lack of natural predator to prevent its propagation in large numbers (see the case of the mango pulp weevil).

This list enumerates at best a limited description of the role of the greater coucal in the ecosystem. A deeper investigation into its biology and behavior may uncover something that we cannot afford to lose.

What if these birds have genes that can cure an incurable illness? We will never know if we drive them out into extinction.

References

Natarajan,V (1993). Food and feeding habits of the Southern Crow-Pheasant Centropus sinensis parroti Stresemann (Aves : Cuculidae) at Pt. Calimere, Tamil Nadu. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 90 (1): 11–16.

Payne, RB (2005). The Cuckoos. Oxford University Press. pp. 238–242. ISBN 0-19-850213-3.

© 2014 June 3 P. A. Regoniel

Mango Pulp Weevil: A Pest Control Problem in Palawan Island

This article describes the mango pulp weevil (MPW), Sternochetus frigidus, introduced to Palawan province and discovered in 1987.  The weevil still lingers as a pest control problem that prevents local mango farmers from exporting their agricultural produce in other places. Find out how the MPW looks like and where it grows. A video is included to show how this pest behaves when disturbed and how fast it can move.

Research still has to find a long-term remedy to the problem of mango pulp weevil (Sternochetus frigidus) infestation in the province of Palawan in the Philippines where the world-renowned underground river is found.  Pest control approaches by farmers have so far been unable to eradicate the pest at source which finds the edible fleshy part of the mango as its favorite breeding place. Hence, the name mango pulp weevil or MPW.

The weevil damages a part of the mango pulp thus reduce the quality of the fruit. For more than two decades, mango growers were unable to export their agricultural produce because the mango pulp weevil will threaten the mango industry in other places.

A post-harvest pest control approach done so far to control the mango pulp weevil include irradiation as quarantine treatment (Padilla 2012). This approach appears to be more economical compared to other post-harvest pest control treatments such as the application of heat and fumigation. Local farmers also apply hit-and-miss approaches to control the weevil at source.

Morphology of the Mango Pulp Weevil

How do these pests look like? Below are pictures of the mango pulp weevil.

mango pulp weevil
Mango pulp weevil (Sternochetus frigidus) infesting mangoes in Palawan Island.

These are two of the four MPWs I have found yesterday upon slicing several fruits from our homegrown mango trees. I can feel that they have a hard texture as I turn them around for the right angles to take photos. The insect is quite small (6mm x 4mm) but switching my Panasonic Lumix LX5 to macro mode enabled me to take extreme close up shots at a distance of less than one centimeter.

Overall, MPWs have dominant brown color at the underside and an orange dorsal region mottled with dark, charcoal black bands across the pitted wings. Also, the wings have rough tiny keratinous projections that probably aid them in burrowing through the soft pulp upon maturity. The long snout has two antenna with rounded tips.

Behavior of the Mango Pulp Weevil

The two samples in the pictures shown previously were found in just one mango fruit, occupying about two centimeters of the pulp next to the seed. Initially, I thought there was only one but upon closer look, another weevil with neatly folded legs sprang to life after a minute or two.

Below is a video of how fast these pests could walk about. If given the chance, they will fly within a few minutes and enter into a state of suspended animation or diapause. Weevils do not fly great distances but usually stay close to the parent tree until the next fruiting season (Gove et al. 2007).

Consumers in Palawan can still eat at least half of the mangoes because only one side of the fruit is affected. An alternative way of consuming infested fruits is to flesh out the mango pulp and dry it (dried mangoes). The affected area is normally about 3 cm in diameter.

Preventive Measures to Control the Pest

I have not been so keen before on the presence of the mango pulp weevil in the three mango trees we have in our yard. My friend, a City Agriculturist, remarked that I should do something about the mango fruits that fall when ripe as this will infect other healthy mango trees.

Based on her remark and on the readings I made in writing this article, I recommend that the following measures should be made by consumers or mango owners.

  1. Harvest mango fruits as soon as these are mature.
  2. Remove all fallen fruits and destroy pests in infested fruit. Damaged fruits should be buried at least half a meter below the ground to prevent the weevil from completing its life cycle (Catindig and Heong 2005).
  3. Kill the pest right away when found in mango consumed.
  4. Report to authorities illegal shipments of mango from infested sources.
  5. Undertake indigenous ways to control weevil infestation such as natural fumigation or bagging using newspapers or similar material.

For researchers, studying local farmers’ practices in controlling mango pulp weevil infestation can help minimize costs associated with pest control specifically the use of synthetic pesticides. Comparing the efficacy of such practices will help identify low-cost techniques or approaches that will reduce, if not eradicate the mango pulp weevil problem.

Natural pest control measures such as breeding ants that feed on the mango weevil (Renkang and Christian 2007) may also be explored. Are there ants species in Palawan that can qualify as weevil predators? This ecosystem approach, particularly looking at the food web interactions, may be the more viable pest control option.

Is Banning Mango Export the Answer?

While banning the exportation of mango fruits from Palawan will prevent pest outbreak in other places, this caused a great loss to mango farmers in the province. Other efficient ways to control the pest must be considered or its economic impact be examined further.

Moreover, despite the infestation, it seems that only a small percentage of the mango fruits are affected. Without pesticide use, out of 300 mangoes that we have harvested at home, we found only less than 10 fruits with MPW in it. That’s only three percent.

An economic analysis may be done to look at the actual damage caused by this pest. Banning fruit exportation may not really be the answer. Rather, an effective quarantine measure should be applied.

References

Catindig, J. L. A. and K. L. Heong, 2005. Description of mango pulp weevil. Retrieved on May 27, 2014 from http://www.niaes.affrc.go.jp/techdoc/apasd/Sternochetus%20frigidus%20-B.html

Gove, T.; Joubert; J. P.; and M. S. de Beer; 2007. Literature review on mango seed weevil Sternochetus mangiferae (Fabricius) (Coleoptera: Curculionidae). SA Mango Growers’ Association Research Journal 27, 21-28.

Padilla, L. D. E., 2012. Saving the Phl Super Mango export industry from pulp weevil infestation through irradiation. Retrieved on May 27, 2014 from http://www.bar.gov.ph/digest-home/digest-archives/365-2012-1st-quarter/2055-janmar2012-phl-super-mango-export-industry

RenKang, P. and K.  Christian, 2007. The effect of the weaver ant, Oecophylla smaragdina (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), on the mango seed weevil, Sternochetus mangiferae (Coleoptera: Curculionidae), in mango orchards in the Northern Territory of Australia. International Journal of Pest Management, 53(1):15-24.

© 2014 May 27 P. A. Regoniel

Four Reasons Why We Should Save Endangered Species

Why do we need to save endangered species? Of what use are wildlife nearing extinction to the human race? This article lists four reasons why we should protect endangered species.

Some people do not understand the importance of keeping a healthy population of animals or plants on the planet. This article, therefore, aims to provide a deeper understanding of the need to preserve endangered species.

Why should we save endangered species? Here are four principal reasons why everyone should do their share in conserving these valuable natural resources:

Four Reasons for Saving Endangered Species

The following are the potential benefits from plants and animals that may be facing extinction:

1. Medicinal value

The drug digitalis, derived from purple foxglove, prevented the death of millions of people. Digitalis is used to treat congestive heart failure (CHF), fluid retention, irregular heartbeat, asthma, epilepsy, tuberculosis, headache, constipation, headache, and spasm. It can also heal wounds and burns. Withering (1785) described the healing properties of the plant as early as the 18th century.

purple foxglove
Digitalis purpurea

This observation means that if one plant species gets extinct, the potential benefits, such as a source of medicine, will be forfeited. However, many plants may be nearing extinction without our knowledge. These plants could contain thousands of important compounds that can lengthen the human lifespan.

Plants are not the only source of medicine. Animals have medicinal properties, too. Here is a list of animals and their medicinal uses:

  • leeches – secretions prevent coagulation and inflammation
  • vipers – elements in their venom control blood pressure
  • scorpion – brain tumor research uses its venom
  • shark – utilized in the study of certain forms of cancer and muscle degeneration
  • bees – honeybee products prevent microbes from thriving
  • lizards – secrete a toxin that may benefit diabetes sufferers
  • frog – produces compounds that prevent infection

2. Agricultural value

Wild species of plants can be a source of vital genes to improve crops that are grown today. Among those genes that scientists splice from the DNAs of plants are pest or disease resistance, salt tolerance, and drought resistance. These properties can help counter the effects of global climate change.

While there are concerns about the products of genetic engineering such as genetically modified organisms (GMOs), these products helped attain food security. People have had a reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable and nutritious food. For example, genetic material from a wild corn species stopped a leaf fungus that previously wiped out 15% of US corn crop. Thus, more crop production ensued.

Animals such as gecko and spiders are also important natural pest control agents. Geckos feed on at least five different kinds of pests while spiders are known to prey on cockroaches.

3. Ecological value

Have you heard the popular quote “No man is an island?” No man stands alone.

Animal or plant extinction can drastically change an ecosystem.

Just like humans, an individual plant or animal could not live by itself. It has to interact with the other organisms as well as its environment to survive. Removing one animal or plant species from the ecosystem will compromise the life of other organisms that interact with it.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, one lost plant species can lead to the loss of 30 other insects, plant, and other animal species found in the higher levels of the food chain. These individual species of plant or animal are sometimes called the keystone species. If that species is removed, the whole ecosystem will be changed drastically.

Examples to illustrate this importance of endangered species and how they link with other organisms are the following:

  • northern spotted owl – health indicator of the ancient forest of the Pacific Northwest
  • gray wolf – controls the population of the elk
  • killer whale – affects the diet of bald eagles (see illustration below)
killer whale and bald eagles
Chain of events that show how the killer whale can affect the diet of bald eagles.

Killer whales affect the diet of bald eagles.

The illustration shows the food chain dynamics in Alaska. If killer whales deplete the population of otters, the population of sea urchins will increase. Overfeeding of large algae by sea urchins will leave no place to hide or breeding places for fish that in turn will migrate to other areas. Once the fishes migrate, the bald eagle population switch their diet to marine birds. In this case, it appears that the keystone species are the sea otters.

 4. Bequest value

Leaving out a legacy for the next generation is a desirable value. We would like our children also to enjoy the benefits that could be gained from wildlife species, not only of their mere existence but for the potential benefits that they can provide.

How to Conserve Endangered Species

Endangered animals and plants, therefore, must be conserved by all means possible. Doable initiatives include the following strategies:

  • reforestation,
  • rehabilitation of degraded lands,
  • sustainable harvesting of timber and other natural products,
  • pollution reduction and prevention,
  • waste reduction and management, and
  • development of innovative strategies to conserve endangered species.

Can you think of other ways to conserve endangered species?

References

WebMD, n.d. Digitalis. Retrieved on May 23, 2014 from http://goo.gl/VvlfYD

Withering, W. (1785). An account of the foxglove, and some of its medical uses: with practical remarks on dropsy and other diseases. Classics of Medicine Library.

Zoo Granby, 2014. Why protect endangered species… So what? Retrieved on May 23, 2014 from http://goo.gl/6zFiZn

© 2014 May 23 P. A. Regoniel

Cite this article as: Regoniel, Patrick A. (May 23, 2014). Four Reasons Why We Should Save Endangered Species. In SimplyEducate.Me. Retrieved from http://simplyeducate.me/2014/05/23/4-reasons-why-we-should-save-endangered-species/

5 Pests in the House that Geckos Can Prey On

Do you own a pet gecko? You’re in luck because these amazing reptiles serve as natural pest terminators. What pests do these lizards eat? Here are five of them.

I heard a friend got injured with scratches and bites when he hurriedly wore his trousers with a gecko in it. An Indian visitor once panicked seeing a gecko in his room. This concern justifies why I usually trap or drive geckos away from home.

But learning the gecko’s feeding behavior changed my attitude. Geckos should be treated with respect because these commonly disdained reptiles that find the ceiling of our homes their ideal habitat serve as natural pest terminators.

For hobbyists who love to take care of exotic pets such as geckos, the feeding behavior of these amazing reptiles is an add-on. Their opportunistic predatory behavior helps balance the micro-ecosystem in the house.

Which household pests do geckos eat? Geckos love to eat a range of pests that live in places similar to theirs — the dark, dank and hidden corners and crevices of the house. Household pests live in places where geckos like to tread.

Specifically, the following household pests compose a gecko’s diet:

1. Mouse and rats

How can geckos get rid of mouse and rats? Obviously, geckos could not win a fight with the large rats but they do feed on rat litter or the young ones.

I learned about this when a Japanese friend approached me and asked if we have geckos in our house. He was looking for some to populate the place he rented.

He explains that geckos are efficient predators that can control the ubiquitous mouse and rats. Geckos frequent dark places where rats usually give birth to their young, thus geckos prey on the young called “pinkies” when the mother rat is not around to defend them.

Click the link below to get access to a Youtube video where a gecko snaps on an unwitting pinky.

2. Geckos feed on cockroaches

gecko's foot
Undoubtedly a gecko’s foot protruding from a curtain’s edges.

Geckos frequent places where the cockroaches like to hide. These are places that are cool, damp and dark. I saw a gecko feeding on a cockroach but I was not quick enough to take a picture of that rare event. I never had the opportunity to see such predation again.

3. Centipedes

Crawling things like centipedes attract the gecko’s attention. A few years ago, I saw a gecko snap on a centipede along the wooden beam of our house. That was a quick, well-placed attack that left the poor, wriggling creäture trying to escape, helplessly jerking its body in vain.

Below, a video taken in Thailand shows a gecko clamping its strong jaws at a large centipede.

4. Swarmers

At dusk during summer, termite colonies produce “swarmers” or winged adults of termites that fly towards light in homes to form their own colonies. Geckos are there to help you get rid of the nuisance.

5. Mosquitoes

Together with the smaller house lizards, mosquitoes are favorite meals of the geckos.  They just extend their tongue quickly and retract the mosquitoes stuck on it.

Lay that spray pesticide aside and enjoy the benefits of a natural pest exterminator.

Things to Watch Out For When Having a Gecko

1. Droppings

While geckos serve as natural pest terminators, you should watch out for those nasty droppings collected at the back of your cabinets or appliances that are seldom moved. While dining, watch out if there are geckos hanging in your ceiling, too.

2. Unlikely home for geckos

I’ve had a bad day when my printer malfunctioned and got damaged when a gecko found the main board of my dot printer its home. It got electrocuted when I switched on the machine. I have to buy another printer because of the mishap.

So if you have a pet gecko, be more cautious with your appliances. Check unlikely but potential places that serve as their hideout.

The next time you see a gecko, think about its role as a natural pest terminator. Dodge, but don’t kill this helpful animal. They serve as natural pest terminators while fulfilling their ecological role.

Avoid the use of persistent and bioaccumulative pesticides in controlling pests by welcoming geckos in your home.

Do you know of any other helpful creature in the house? I know another one. It’s the house spider. See what it does by reading the article below:

Do Spiders Eat Cockroaches?

©2014 May 20 Patrick Regoniel

14 Uses of Metals, Mining and Its Environmental Impact

What are the benefits of mineral mining and how does it affect the environment? How can environmental management maintain the ecological benefits derived from a healthy environment?

The extraction of valuable minerals from the earth has been a major preoccupation in many countries because of the society’s need for different kinds of metals to sustain economic growth. Metals have become a significant factor in the development of human society as these are closely associated with production of consumer items, facilities, transportation, among others that make life convenient to people.

14 Specific Uses of Metals

Specifically, valuable minerals serve as vital components of the following things that make life easy or convenient to people:

  1. computers that play a very significant role in today’s modern age,
  2. cars that bring people to their destination,
  3. airplanes that transport passengers across places and guard the country’s boundaries,
  4. railroad tracks and trains that bring masses of people from one place to another,
  5. ships that ferry people across the seas,
  6. farm machineries that make possible high volumes of crop production,
  7. cellphones and wires that facilitate communication between people,
  8. satellites that monitor the weather and aid in the study of the earth,
  9. construction materials for sturdy buildings and homes,
  10. appliances that make life convenient in homes,
  11. streetlights that illuminate the streets,
  12. kitchen wares for homes and restaurants,
  13. production of robots for various uses, and
  14. dams to supply the water and electricity needs of populated areas.

The list of the different uses of metals could go on and on among which the computers stand out as these have significantly affected modern living. Although advanced computer technology suggests that glass (fiber optic cables) will replace metals in the near future, currently, these are just indispensable.

Without metals all the above services will not be enjoyed by people. Because of metals, life has become much more convenient to man.

The Need to Mine and Its Environmental Impact

To keep on enjoying the benefits derived from metals, there is a need to mine these minerals from the earth. This is not easy, as it would take a lot of effort and cost to remove the valuable minerals from the metal ore. The ore is a naturally occurring solid material from which metals are extracted. From extraction to processing, mining activities have significant environmental impact.

Many environmental groups are against mineral mining because of its environmentally destructive impact. It spoils the ecological benefits humans derive from the environment like clean water, clean air, productive land, among others. Health-related concerns arise due to mining impacts on water brought about by acid mine drainage and increased soil erosion due to forest removal. Air quality is compromised due to increased emission of particulate matter. Soil quality deteriorates because of increased heavy metal input.

acid mine drainage
A defunct, unrehabilitated copper mine upstream in the remote island of Balabac, Palawan caused this bluish coloration, due to copper sulfate, of the stream bed. Locals noticed this occurring for more than 30 years.

The Need for Effective Environmental Management

While there are negative impacts to the environment as a result of mineral mining, the benefits must be weighed against the cost. Both the environment and metals are important to human life. This is the essence of environmental resource management.

Thus, there is a need to manage the interaction between mining as an important activity of human society and the environment. For this reason, environmental impact assessments are made before starting a mining project so that decision makers are best informed as to what steps to make to sustain the ecological benefits that a viable environment provides. While the mining activities are going on, periodic environmental monitoring is conducted, and finally, when mining is no longer profitable, proper restorative measures are undertaken. These actions will prevent environmental disasters from taking place.

©Patrick A. Regoniel 19 May 2014

Facts About Small Animals in the Intertidal Zone

Have you been to an intertidal zone? If you look closely in pools of water that remained as the tide ebbs, there are interesting organisms living there. What organisms do you expect to find? Here is a list of some interesting ones – the baby animals of the intertidal zone.

the intertidal zone
The intertidal zone bounded by mangroves and the open sea.

Which part of the coast is the intertidal zone? As the name connotes, it is that part bounded by the highest tide and the lowest tide. This area can vary between places as the coasts have different configuration and slope. Those with steep inclines tend to have smaller intertidal zone. It is here where people of the coastal communities derive sustenance when fishing in the deeper waters does not give them enough food for the day.

The intertidal zone is an interesting part of the coastal ecosystem. A rich diversity of life exists here, among which are the young stages of marine organisms.

Let me tour you through the intertidal zone by showing some of the common animals found in this important part of coastal ecosystem. A walk through the sandy and rocky shores can be an entertaining activity as you will find a lot of interesting animals if you are keen enough in spotting them.

Babies of the Intertidal Zone

Here are the animals I’ve found in my short walk along the beach at low tide in a coastal area with an extensive intertidal zone. In one of my articles, I call them babies of the intertidal zone as many of the marine organisms here are the early life stages of the mature ones.

A certain degree of caution must be exercised to avoid stepping on the following organisms which play important roles in the maintenance of a healthy coastal ecosystem.

brittle star
A baby brittle star.

1. Baby Brittle Star

Brittle stars feed on almost anything its mouth and tentacles can handle. It is basically omnivorous, meaning, feeding on both small plants and animals. Along with the starfishes, the brittle stars prevent the excessive growth of algae in the coral reefs. Too much algae can suffocate corals and kill them.

The feeding habit of brittle stars prevents the build up of organic materials in the benthic zone or the bottom part of the sea that includes everything solid such as sediments, rocks, coral fragments, mud, among others.

Brittle stars are also known to feed on other animals without necessarily killing them. This type of interaction is referred to as mutualism – both organisms benefit from each other. The brittle star scavenges materials from the host organism, and in turn, the host is cleaned up of excessive organic matter that can be harmful to its health.

The picture of the baby brittle star shown here shows its approximate actual size. When handled, they easily disintegrate because the tentacles are very fragile. Brittle stars, however, are able to regenerate their tentacles easily.

2. Baby Eel

baby eel
A baby eel.

The baby eel is almost indiscernible behind an outcrop of dead coral and sand as the sun reflects light on the surface of the water. Its spotted skin renders it almost unrecognizable as it lies motionless and ready to escape once disturbed.

Eels form part of the intertidal zone food chain. Being predators, they control the population of their prey thus achieve balance in the ecosystem. The specific food eaten by eels can be determined through a study of their stomach contents.

Eels are an important food source to man. These are also used traditionally as food, in fact, a very important part of the diet and social interaction in some coastal communities when shared as part of tradition.[1]

3. Baby Lobster

baby lobster
A baby lobster.

Just like the eel, this baby lobster referred to by locals as “pitik” finds refuge at the junction of a dead coral and sand. It does not really look like the mature one but it does grow into a lobster according to the local guide.

Lobsters are essentially scavengers, meaning, they feed on particles of organic matter. Thus, it serves as a nutrient recycler in the coastal ecosystem. Other marine organisms feed on it as well humans who find the lobster’s meat tasty.

Due to the high demand for lobster, its population has seen a decline in many tropical countries. Recently, lobsters served in restaurants are smaller. This indicates an overfished marine resource. Most of the mature ones have been harvested.

4. Baby Sea Urchin

baby sea urchin
A baby sea urchin.

This baby sea urchin appears rather cute. It looks like a white tennis ball that floats about.

sea urchin
Another baby sea urchin with spines.

Some species of sea urchins are edible and can be consumed directly right after they are gathered. Some species are spiked and can cause discomfort when accidentally stepped upon (see right photo).

Just like the other marine organisms, sea urchins help maintain balance in the coastal ecosystem as part of the food chain. When left unchecked by predators such as starfishes, too many sea urchins can wipe out seaweeds and erode reefs.[2] This will change the productivity of the coastal zone thereby reducing the capacity of the ecosystem to provide services such as provision of food and livelihood to resource dependent communities.

5. Baby Spider Conch

spider conch

Spider conch, locally called “ranga-ranga,” are a favorite among gleaners.  They are marine mollusks that graze on fine red algae [3] thus are also help achieve ecosystem balance.

Aside from consuming this mollusk as food, the shells are used in making shellcraft. As a result, their population continue to decline through the years. If this situation persists for a long time due to unregulated harvesting, cascading effects to the coastal ecosystem will be sustained. Nobody knows what that will be, and research will be able to provide the answers.

The above featured marine organisms are just selections from the diverse array of life in the intertidal zone. When unfortunate events like oil spill occurs, these animals are certainly affected. Based on the ecological roles and economic importance of these organisms, you will be able to appreciate how such events can prove to be disastrous to resource dependent communities in the coastal areas.

References

1. Kavanagh, S. (2011, May 30). “Eels were life to our people”: traditional ecological knowledge of eels as food, medicine, community and life among participants in the Mi’kmaq food and ceremonial fishery in Cape Breton, NS. Retrieved September 23, 2013, from http://www.integrativescience.ca/uploads/articles/2011May-Kavanagh-Integrative-Science-eels-Mikmaq-fisheries-aboriginal-ESAC.pdf

2. Dunlap, H. and T. Monaghan. (2008). Sea urchin. Retrieved September 23, 2013, from http://tolweb.org/treehouses/?treehouse_id=4881

3. Tan, R. (2008, September 12). Spider conch. Retrieved September 23, 2013, from http://www.wildsingapore.com/wildfacts/mollusca/gastropoda/strombidae/lambis.htm

© 2013 September 23 P. A. Regoniel