The once common Atlantic cod
In wildlife conservation, people tend to pay closer attention to the disappearing creatures. There is a sense of urgency, and rightfully so, to save the few, but new research indicates that it is the common things that need protecting. For if they go, all the ways that they influence the nature of the world will be so disturbed that even the rare will have nowhere left to go. Let’s face it. If things get so bad that even common critters aren’t around anymore, we’re in deep doo-doo.
The research, led by Kerstin Johannesson with the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, looked specifically at marine systems. Johannesson found that a vast number of species in the oceans are so rare, it’s difficult to find even a few individuals anymore. “Committing most resources to saving individual species is not just an expensive business – it would also risk destroying the foundation for ecosystems,” states a press release on the study.
Common species, found Johannesson, create habitat for other species, so by protecting them, it’s possible to protect the rare animals as well. Johannesson uses the once common cod in the fjords of the Bohuslän coast as an example of this phenomenon. Their numbers have virtually disappeared.
“Without the big predatory fish, the sea-grass meadows become clogged, with the result that the shallow bays no longer act as larders and nurseries for inshore fish,” Johannesson stated in a press release.
I don’t know if Johannesson’s conservation strategy is the right way to go, moreso than concentrating on endangered species, but who’s to say that we shouldn’t really implement both tactics? Regardless, I have no doubt that we need to understand better the value of the common creatures. After all preventative conservation, sure does sound a heck of a lot smarter and potentially easier than waiting to clean up a mess.
What are your thoughts?
Kerstin Johannesson of the University of Gothenburg
Kerstin Johannesson, Kerstin.Johannesson@marecol.gu.se, 465-266-8611