Declining-Population Approach to Population Conservation

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  • 0:01 Declining Population Approach
  • 0:25 Why Populations Decline
  • 1:53 Examples of Conservation
  • 4:30 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

Populations can be conserved when they are in decline if we can diagnose the reason for their decline using a 6-step approach. This lesson defines declining populations and outlines the six steps used in such a diagnosis.

Declining Population Approach

If something is falling and you want to prevent it from crashing into the ground what do you do? This isn't a trick question. You try and prevent it from falling any farther right? That's exactly what biologists try to do when dealing with declining populations. They try to figure out how they can stop the population from declining any further. Let's discuss declining populations, large or small populations that are falling in number, and examples of how they may be saved.

Why Populations Decline

Habitat loss is one definite reason populations decline. In the declining population approach to population conservation, biologists emphasize the environmental reasons a species, like a bird, may be disappearing. For example, if half of the city you live in were to suddenly be lost, there would be fewer homes for people to live in, fewer stores to get food in and fewer roads to safely navigate from one place to another. In general, life would become more difficult for you. If we destroy part of or all of an animal's habitat, like the forest a bird inhabits, we do the same. We take away a home. We take away a source of food. We minimize the chances of finding a mate or rearing the young to adulthood.

Let's think of another environmental reason for population decline. If you were to drink dirty water, how would that make you feel? You would likely be really sick. It may even kill you. Pollution is another clear-cut reason for population decline. Toxins in rivers can directly kill many living organisms, be they microorganisms or fish. But pollution can also kill trees, shrubs, and grasslands, which results in the destruction of an animal's habitat, once again!

Climate change is a further cause of population decline. Climate change may make it difficult for an animal to find a source of food if that source of food has been killed off by an increase in temperature.

Examples of Conservation

Clearly, there are plenty of reasons for a declining population. But what can a biologist do to save an animal? Obviously we can protect a habitat by setting up a nature reserve. So, if a particular animal needs a certain type of pine forest to survive, a section of that pine forest can be set aside for protection of the animal that depends on it.

But that's the obvious answer; we can do a lot more. By really studying a species' needs, we can provide unique advantages for a species in order to help the population recover. Advantages specifically geared towards that species, not just every species that may benefit from setting up a nature preserve.

For instance, the red-cockaded woodpecker takes a very long time to excavate a nesting cavity in a tree. So, researchers actually made the cavities for them. And what do you know? The nesting rates in that area increased dramatically over the nesting rates where no such cavities were constructed. Basically, we can give a population a 'leg-up' by doing things for them, things that take a long time and expend a lot of valuable energy.

Again, while setting up a protected area to preserve trees where the woodpeckers could live benefited other animals, setting up these nesting cavities was a more direct approach towards saving a specific declining population based on their unique needs.

Overall, there is a sequence of six steps you can take to diagnose the problem of and apply a solution to a declining population.

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