Biodiversity Loss and the Need for Conservation Research
As human populations increase, so too does the pressure exerted on the Earth’s ecosystems. It is estimated that the rate of plant and animal extinctions is currently 100 -1000 times greater than the average extinction rate was throughout evolutionary history (Lawton and May, 1995) - and this rate is predicted to escalate further.
Factors such as habitat loss and fragmentation, the unsustainable harvesting of plant and animals species, pollution, the introduction of invasive species and the increase of human development are all believed to be contributing to this worldwide decline in species diversity.
Although the planet is experiencing dramatic decreases in biodiversity, zoos, conservation organizations, and numerous individuals around the world have taken great steps in creating and implementing species survival plans as part of their mandates.
The Calgary Zoo recognized the need for conservation research by launching the Centre for Conservation Research (CCR) in 1999. The CCR works with other non-profit organizations, governments, scientists and universities around the world to conduct and share research and to influence actions and policies that protect endangered species. With official academic status at both Canadian and international universities, the CCR fills a crucial niche by conducting applicable, scientific research aimed at increasing the populations of endangered species and at successfully reintroducing animals back into the wild.
Reintroduction Research, Wildlife Ecology & Health and Conservation Training
Reintroduction research is an important aspect of increasing the population levels of endangered and threatened species around the world. There are three unique facets of reintroduction research: Conservation breeding, releases, and sustainability in the wild. Currently, the CCR is completing reintroduction research on the Whooping Crane, Black-footed Ferret, Northern Leopard Frog, Swift Fox , Black-tailed Prairie Dog, Burrowing Owl and Vancouver Island Marmot.
Wildlife Ecology and Health is another focus of the CCR. Human development, population growth and modern technologies all alter natural landscapes and impact the health of ecosystems. In turn, the changes that occur to these landscapes often trigger declines in wildlife populations as well as cause significant disruptions to natural processes. The CCR conducts research projects aimed at understanding these processes and developing applicable solutions that help humans coexist harmoniously with local flora and fauna.
In order to ensure a sustainable environment for future generations, the CCR also feels it is essential to create a legacy of conservation research. By teaching at universities and by mentoring graduate students, the CCR helps shape scholars into future conservation leaders. The Centre also offers annual Canadian and International Conservation Research Fellowships to provide undergraduate and graduate students with hands-on learning opportunities in conservation research and endangered species management.
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- J.H.Lawton & R.M.May (1995) Extinction rates. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK