The Global Lead News SEPT | OCT 2016 - Page 73

Perreault Magazine - 73

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Smith found that the little greenbuls living in ecotones were actually in the beginning stages of speciation, stage in which a species begins to evolve into another species entirely. Smith’s research was crucial for conservation efforts because the little greenbul’s evolution was essentially caused by the strong selection pressures found in the ecotones. With a significantly changing environment, the birds are adapting rather swiftly to maintain their resiliency.

Speciation within ecotones is not an anomaly; in fact, Smith and other biologists are finding evidence of this in many species. These findings are vastly important to conservation efforts, as our prioritization of funding and efforts to sustain biodiversity need to be refocused from primarily biodiversity hotspots to also include the overlooked gradient areas and ecotones.

*Ecotone, a transitional area of vegetation between two different plant communities, such as forest and grassland. It has some of the characteristics of each bordering biological community and often contains species not found in the overlapping communities.

Preservation of biodiversity is crucial for maintaining both human health and planetary health. All of the world’s ecosystems, species, and relationships depend on one another to maintain our symbiosis and our ability to thrive. Humans depend on plants to produce oxygen, plants depend on humans to produce carbon dioxide, humans depend on birds and flying insects to pollinate plants and agriculture, birds depend on trees for habitat, humans depend on plants to produce necessary pharmaceuticals, and so the symbiotic relationships go on and on. Every species on the planet has a role to play in maintaining the mass ecosystem. Humans’ role, however, is unique now in that we have the power, knowledge, and choice to either destroy or preserve other species. The Center for Tropical Research at UCLA and many other institutions around the world are working hard to ensure humans choose the latter – to preserve as many species as possible.

“It’s important to remember that human health and biodiversity are intricately connected, and preserving biodiversity is really critical for human health.” –Dr. Thomas Smith