As you may have noticed, my blog has not been updated for some time now – a couple of weeks I believe. I wish I had some great, extravagant excuse as to why this has happened, but alas I do not. No, it’s just been my fairly mundane life prohibiting me from finding time to write about the one thing I love. On the flip side though, one exciting thing that did happen was meeting the producer and director of the Mountains episode of Planet Earth II – Justin Anderson. Yeah, that was very cool.
In the relatively long time that I have not been present on the internet, much has gone on in the world of wildlife. This Friday just passed was the United Nation’s #WorldWildlifeDay. An incredibly important awareness campaign day for a plethora of threats that face our global wildlife populations. This year’s focus was on “listen to the young voices”, showing the value of the next generation’s effort to change the present threats facing the planet’s wild family. I am a firm believer that as a generation, the millennials are one of the most prominent cogs in the conservation machine, particularly in terms of changing attitudes.
On a sadder note, yesterday it was reported in The Guardian that poachers have killed one of Africa’s last remaining ‘big tusker’ elephants. Despite the global euphoria that radiated around the scientific community, and environmental enthusiasts alike, when China announced that it would ban its’ ivory trade by the end of 2017, stories like this are a brutal reminder that there is still a troublesome journey ahead if we are ever to prevent the extinction of elephants in the wild. What’s more alarming to me, is that if we cannot prevent the extinction of a keystone species, such as the African Elephant, then what hope remains for the rest of the world’s wildlife?
Considering their vast size and the wealth of knowledge that we do not know about them, it comes as no surprise that there has been a multitude of stories regarding the world’s marine life. One in particular that caught my eye was one entitled “fish under threat from ocean oxygen depletion“. How crazy is that? Just reading the title itself left me in a state of complete disbelief and horror. The article, again in The Guardian, states that a study by the Geomar Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research has found that oceanic oxygen levels have depleted by 2% over the past 50 years due to climate change. Now, 2% might not sound like a lot, but continuing at this rate of depletion, the article informs us that oceanic oxygen levels will decrease by roughly 7% by 2100. That is staggering. Not only will this have catastrophic implications on a wide range of marine flora and fauna, as they are unable to adapt to the new, lowered concentrations of oxygen, but it will also have staggering implications for humans. Understandably, fish stocks will eventually collapse. This is a major issue as fish and shellfish are considered one of the most important sources of protein globally, especially in developing countries. Further to this, climate change is increasing sea level rise, lowering oceanic pH levels and heightening marine temperatures. All of these impacts of climate change are highly interlinked and have knock-on effects on seemingly unrelated elements of the globe’s ecosystems.
When I first decided 10 or so years ago that I wanted to become a marine biologist, I had no conception of the intricacy of the environment. Everything is so highly complex. As I continue with my undergraduate studies, gradually hoping to pursue an MSc and a PhD, I am consistently overwhelmed by the convoluted world around us. To me, this presents two very separate ideas. For one, this arduous, interconnected planet on which we live, is incredibly exciting.Discovering how these highly sophisticated mechanisms and relationships operate, from mutualistic relationships between sea anemones and clownfish to the feedback mechanisms of the albedo effect in polar environments, is an especially valuable and mentally challenging task – one which many thrive upon. As with most things in science, the challenges that are shown to us at present, principally climate change, are interwoven with multiple threats to the environment. For me, this symbolises how integral it is that we all co-operate, as a global community, if we are ever to tackle the problems associated with climate change, mass extinctions and pollution – just to name a few. Without educating the future generation of scientists in a whole wealth of environmental sciences, I partially believe that the fight may have already been lost.
All in all, it seems to me that “listen to the young voices” could not be a more appropriate theme for this year’s #WorldWildlifeDay, don’t you think?