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Conservation International (CI) has asked for student assistance to develop site-specific conservation plans for biodiversity hotspots worldwide. You will select an identified hotspot, researching key species present, learn about the region and culture, and identify threats to and stakeholder roles in the region. You will then develop plans to conserve the biodiversity of the region.

Unit Essential Questions

  • How do species become threatened or endangered?
  • How does the disappearance of one species affect the larger system?
  • What are some actions that humans might take to slow the current rate of extinction?

Unit Enduring Understandings

  • Species can become threatened or endangered due to habitat loss or changes resulting from human actions or natural forces.
  • The extinction of one species has consequences for the entire system due to essential species’ interactions called symbioses.
  • There are a number of conservation measures that can be taken to slow or prevent the decline of a species.

Procedure

  1. Select a hotspot from the list held by the teacher. Write your name on the list; only one person per hotspot. Read the overview of hotspots at http://www.conservation.org/How/Pages/Hotspots.aspx.
  2. Research key species living within that ecosystem (e.g., kingdom, phylum, habitat, food needs, and so on), using http://www.cepf.net/resources/hotspots/Pages/default.aspx and other teacher-approved sites. Consider ALL organisms, not just Animalia. Count the number of relationships each species has with other species and record it on an organizer for that species.  Answer the following questions in your science journal:
  • Which species are most important to your ecosystem and why (e.g., food, habitat, reproduction factor)?
  • Are the important species animals? plants? fungi?
  • Which species in your ecosystem has the most relationships with other species? Which have the fewest?
  • What role do abiotic elements play in your ecosystem?
  1. Determine and describe a conservation action that can be taken to ensure the future of the hotspot you researched. Consider the needs of the hotspot you are researching and identify one action that could be taken to better conserve the biodiversity of the area.  There are many different conservation approaches that could be taken for avoiding the extinction of a threatened species or protecting areas of key biological activity. Some of these ideas are shown in Table 1 below, but you may have ideas of your own.   Describe your action plan fully, identifying resources needed and timeline for implementation.
  2. Create an online presentation of your research project. Potential online resources include google docs, prezi, glogster, weebly. You may know of others.
  3. Present your research to the class in a formal and professional manner. Include documentation of recorded species and your proposed idea.

Vocabulary

Endemic:           A plant or animal native to or restricted to a certain locality, region, or area.

Biodiversity:    Biological diversity – or biodiversity – is the term given to the variety of life on Earth. It is the variety within and between all species of plants, animals and micro-organisms and the ecosystems within which they live and interact. Biodiversity is explored at three levels: genetic diversity; species diversity; and ecosystem diversity.

Biodiversity hotspots:  To qualify as a hotspot, a region must meet two strict criteria: it must contain at least 1,500 species of vascular plants (> 0.5 percent of the world’s total) as endemics, and it has to have lost at least 70 percent of its original habitat.

Table 1.  Potential Actions

Create incentives and legislation to reduce hunting pressure.
Control of invasive species.
Captive breeding programs, propagation, and re-introduction of threatened species.
More effective management of protected areas.
Adding new parks and reserves in the highest priority portions of unprotected intact habitat.
Restoring degraded habitats to provide increased connectivity (to decrease fragmentation).
Establishment, expansion and management of protected areas
Implementation of innovative economic alternatives such as ecotourism and conservation concessions.
Influence the behavior of people at the local level, through education, and at the national level, through policy work and awareness campaigns
Working with international corporations to ensure that their business practices do not contribute to further biodiversity loss.
Collaborating with a single expert to protect a threatened species to avoid its extinction
Working with the government of the country to facilitate national conservation initiatives.
Leveraging other organizations to protect biodiversity in the hotspot.

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