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Land Conservation: Criteria For Evaluation of Land and Most Endangered Lands in the US

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  • 0:05 Agriculture and Land…
  • 1:39 Criteria for…
  • 3:56 Most Endangered…
  • 5:30 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Margaret Cunningham

Margaret has taught many Biology and Environmental Science courses and has Master's degrees in Environmental Science and Education.

Land is a very valuable thing and is used for many different purposes. We will explore why land should be conserved and the criteria for evaluating land. We will also identify some of the most endangered ecosystems in the United States.

Agriculture and Land Conservation

What do you think would happen if all of the undeveloped land in the United States were converted for agricultural use? Some people might see this as a good thing because it would make it possible to produce more food to feed the growing human population, while other people would not be happy with this change.

Although producing food is an important act, it is also very important to conserve the natural, undisturbed land that surrounds agricultural fields. To conserve land means to protect the land from harm or destruction, and in this case, it is the harm caused by humans as they convert land for agriculture.

Although most people look at a farm field and a forest as two distinct environments, they are, in fact, extremely interconnected. It is important to conserve the natural forests around farm fields because the plants and animals of both ecosystems interact and depend on each other. Animals travel between the two ecosystems and might rely on the different ecosystems for different aspects of their life. For example, a mouse might live in the farm field, but travel to the forest next door to find food.

In addition, plants might rely on the interaction between the farm and natural habitat to spread seeds or for fertilization. You might see wild mustard in a forest and farmed mustard plants in a field. These two types of mustard are connected because they may rely on the same mechanism for pollination and they might cross-pollinate each other.

Criteria for Evaluating Ecosystems

When it is thought that an ecosystem is being harmed or threatened, there are several criteria that can be used to evaluate the ecosystem and determine if it is endangered. The criteria that are used to evaluate an ecosystem include the size of the ecosystem, location, connectivity, habitat quality, wildlife composition and the level of human activity. To remember the criteria, you could use the mnemonic 'Suzy's Lazy Cousin Always Cries Quickly.'

The size and location of the ecosystem is evaluated because this makes it possible for evaluators to determine how much land is being considered for conservation and also what is around the ecosystem and might influence it. Connectivity, which, in ecological terms, is the degree to which different habitats connect to each other, is also examined when evaluating an ecosystem.

Connectivity can be thought of as paths that connect two habitats, similar to sidewalks that connect houses. The level of connectivity is an important criterion because it demonstrates how the ecosystem interacts with other nearby habitats.

The previous criteria were related to the physical design of the ecosystem, but there are also several criteria that examine what is within the ecosystem. The habitat quality, which is often thought of as the soil quality, and the availability of food and shelter is another criterion for evaluating an ecosystem. It is important to examine habitat quality in order to determine if the ecosystem is healthy and is worth conserving. The wildlife composition, which is the types of species that live in the ecosystem and their ecological structure, is also an important criterion.

Ecosystems that have a varied wildlife composition and support a variety of organisms are more likely to be healthy. The final criterion for evaluating an ecosystem is the level of human activity, which can come in the form of recreation, building, farming or any other activity on the land. It is important to evaluate the level of human activity to determine the extent to which humans are influencing the ecosystem.

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