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The Value of Nature sample essay

The battle between nature and technology has led to the chasm between the importances of both to the general population. The reliance on technological products has caused people to become more detached to nature and have thus led to the erosion of the significance of the same to everyday life. Although the average person still holds an understanding as to the role that the ecology plays on his life, much of this knowledge is mere textbook knowledge. The stuff of classroom discussions has little application in daily life therefore.

This outlook and perspective on ecology and the environment has caused much strain for environmentalists. The continued detachment of the general population from nature has caused them to take for granted the benefits that the latter provides them. Therefore, dangers which present themselves against the growth and continued existence of a healthy environment go largely unnoticed. Scientists and the media do their part to try and educate the public about the growing alarm regarding the degeneration of the environment. However, these measures are heeded only by those who have a firm and solid grasp on the actual importance of the environment.

Such importance is the focus of the discussion here on in and will be made through several illustrations which will serve to validate the value that people should ascribe to nature and the environment. This paper hopes to bring home the message that the natural ecology is the basic building block of life itself. In a world of increasing mobility and technology, there is still a need to maintain and care for the environment.

Rainforests

The best picture of land biodiversity may be seen in rainforests. In Whitmore’s discussion on the characteristics of rainforests it is stated that two-thirds of the known animal species on earth are found in rainforests. Despite the affluence of species already known to inhabit the rainforests, it is surmised that millions of undiscovered species still thrive under the thick canopies.

Rainforests belong to a particular category of forests. The distinction lies in the amount of rainfall that rainforests receive in a year – some 68 to 78 inches annually. Because of the abundance of water that rainforests receive, there is an observed enhancement of plant growth and steady emergence of new plants every year. The diversity and abundance of towering trees is not an uncommon sight in rainforests. However, the thickness of the layers of older plants block off the entry of sunlight to the undergrowth of the rainforest. This provides for poorer sunlight at the forest floor layer thus only encouraging the growth of plants which require only minimum levels of sunlight to survive.

The strongest relation that rainforests have with man is the role that the plants play in converting carbon dioxide in the atmosphere into oxygen (Whitmore, 137). Because of the proliferation of plants in rainforests, the same are accountable for the control of much of the carbon gases in the environment. Because of the crucial role that rainforests play in tempering the presence of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, they also hold a part in tempering the global temperature.

It has been shown that the deforestation and marked logging of trees in the rainforest has resulted to the emission of carbon dioxide by the remaining plants (Whitmore, 179). The increase in presence of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere also serves to increase the global temperature. It can thus be seen that rainforests play a crucial role in fending off global warming. The maintenance of the outgrowth of plants in the rainforest serves to lower the global climate affecting regions all over the world and not just the immediate area of the rainforest itself.

Apart from global warming, rainforests are also sources of many products which men purchase on a regular basis (Myers 192). Timber obtained from logging done in rainforests allows for the building of numerous products. Many types of processed and non-processed foods are taken from the abundance of rainforests. Even meat and hides from animals in the rainforest are used by humans. It should be noted however that such use must be properly mitigated and subjected to control.

Abuse of the resources found in rainforests could lead to the extinction of the plant and animal species found therein. The integral relations of the species present in rainforests, once disturbed, could lead to the extinction not just of the resource abused but also of those species dependent upon that resource. An interruption in the natural cycle and give-and-take processes in the rainforest would thus serve to deprive humans of the beneficial uses they enjoy. Not only this, but rampant abuse has been seen to cause the death of whole rainforests. This serves only to bring about the earlier mentioned global dangers of the obliteration of the rich ecosystem of rainforests.

Medicinal Plants

Another benefit of rainforests that has yet to be discussed concerns the plants and herbs which are found sometimes only in the rich foliage of its plant system. The American Cancer Society have found 3000 plants shown to have properties which fight against cancer cells (Goodenough, McGuire, & Wallace 364). Of all these plants, around 70% have been found to exist only in rainforests.

Goodenough et al. discuss that more than 25% of the world’s medicines contain chemicals derived from plants. In fact, the roots of modern day pharmacology derive from a history of herbal medicine. The chemicals used today in the production of medicine are derived from knowledge of native healers regarding the healing attributes of certain plants. Such plants were then studied and synthesized in order that the reactive chemicals they contained could be enhanced and coupled with other known effective chemicals to provide a more effective treatment to known ailments.

Up to today however native healers and herbal treatments are still abundant in the market. Many people who have not had success with doctor recommended treatments, or those who ail from diseases which as yet do not have prescribed treatments, resort to the use of herbal medicines themselves. Native healers derive their treatments from local plants they have studied for treatment.

All parts of the plant are utilized in such treatment methods – the leaves, barks, and even the roots. Some of the known medicines that are widely utilized today have been taken from the ingredients of such herbal medicines. Take for example the use of tea brewed from willow bark which used to be the treatment for body pains and even for fever. Today it is known that willow bark has salicylic acid, which counters stressors on the body. Salicylic acid is now used as the active ingredient for aspirin (Goodenough et al. 362).

Digitalis, which is the most popular medication for heart ailments today, was formed through much the same process. Local gypsies had been using herbal medicine and gave it to a foreigner whom doctors had failed to treat for his heart condition (Goodenough et al. 362). The medicine caused the immediate improvement of his condition. The main ingredient in the herbal potion was foxglove, a healing herb. This is now the main component of Digitalis today.

Despite the abundance of rainforest plants which contribute to the study of medicine, there is no strict exclusion of plants found in other forests and habitats. However, it is a fact that 155,000 of the 255,000 plant species in the world exist in rainforests (Goodenough et al. 367). Of all these species, less than two percent have been studied and tested for medicinal tendencies.

The steady destruction of forests, and particularly more so rainforests, presents a problem in the continued study of the potential contribution of plants to pharmacology and medicine. In fact, the mere disruption of their natural reproduction processes and the taking of too many of such plants could lead to the deprivation of man of as yet unknown medicinal purposes of the same.

Culturing such plants may allow for the extraction of the particular attributes which help fight particular studied diseases. However such cultures may lead to the plant’s loss of other minerals and ingredients which might be studied in the future for uses other than those already known. Therefore, coupled with the good intentions to develop medicines from such plants should be a discipline to care for the continued proliferation of such plants in their natural habitat.

Coral Reefs

As important as rainforests are to the global climate, medicine, tourism, and other human uses, it should be noted that coral reefs are the rainforests of the ocean. As rich as rainforests are in biodiversity, they are outranked by coral reefs in the diversity of ecosystems. However, with the lack of interaction between the general public and these ecosystems, there is difficulty in understanding the benefits that coral reefs have on day-to-day life. In one issue of Nature, a communication about coral reef resiliency may seem esoteric, but actually has relevant consequences in everyday life (Mumby, Hastings, & Edwards 98).

Coral reef diversity is an important component of the world’s ecology. This important location is intertwined with terrestrial surroundings that ultimately affect human lives in many ways. Man depends on the ocean for food, recreation, and medicines but also can seem to treat it as a bottomless dumping ground for waste and pollutants. Human activity adversely affects the oceans and their most sensitive ecosystems – those that include coral reefs.

The health of the world’s coral reefs can pressure worldwide biodiversity, ecosystem function, and the livelihoods of millions that live in tropical coastal regions (Mumby et al. 98). In addition, coral reefs reduce beach erosion, support tourism, and sustain communities of fish (Brown University 2). The Caribbean corals are just one example of these important systems that have been researched to find their resiliency and stable states.

It is only recently that scientists have come to understand the growth rates of corals (Nybakken 388), which is an important factor in their resiliency as is bleaching. It is believed that corals have an overall slow growth rate which makes it detrimental when they are injured or destroyed. Coral bleaching is an important component of colony survival and is especially of concern to coral colonies in the Caribbean (Graham & Wilcox 146).

Bleaching is important to understand when studying resiliency since some corals bleach and then recover after many years while others perish and never grow back (Nature Conservancy). The bleaching phenomenon happens when corals lose their symbiotic algae, zooxanthellae, which cause them to lose their color and turn white. White coral are no longer living and will not re-grow in most every case. There are many reasons for these events that include pollution, algal blooms, and predator/feeding overuse.

Research published in Nature recently examined whether corals in the Caribbean have normal phases of macroalgal cover – which means that this would not necessarily be a detrimental condition (Mumby et al. 98). This means that the coral communities could have more than one state where they are stable or healthy. The repercussions of this research are vast. First, if it is possible for corals to grow and flourish after an algal bloom has subsided then this alludes that science must take a different view of their life cycles.

Unfortunately, when corals are covered in larger algae they usually die off and the reef becomes smaller as a result. When this happens, resident fish communities must look elsewhere for food and coastal erosion is accelerated. The chain reaction begins in the food web that ultimately affects humans downstream. When a reef dies, even if only in part, the food it supplies to small fish is decreased.

In turn, these fish cannot feed and must look to other sources to survive. The larger predators that feed on these smaller species must in turn also obtain food from new locations. The largest of the ocean dwellers must then move to new feeding grounds – this includes tuna, swordfish, and others that humans use as food. This picture assumes of course that these ecosystems have other reefs that they may transfer to and thus start afresh the cycle of dependency.

Besides the implications on the food web, coastal erosion becomes problematic when some parts or an entire reef is lost. Coral reefs form a buffer from waves and other natural strains on the coast. Without these formations, wave action from storms and normal activity is able to eat away at a coastline, causing it to subside. When a large storm, such as a hurricane, comes, coastal flooding has a bigger impact since there is not as much shoreline in place between the water and coastal communities. This is a critical issue in the Caribbean and other tropical climates where hurricanes and other such cyclones occur frequently. Not only does this make the land less inhabitable, but it can also cost local economies important economic gain from tourism.

Reef life cycles in the Caribbean may seem like obscure issues that have little to do with the general population. However, it is important to realize that this system is a model for other reef systems throughout the ocean. In addition, when one ecosystem on the planet is affected adversely, nature’s entire balance is forced to shift and accommodate the consequences.

This shift undoubtedly causes pressure on a new system to take up the niche that the extinct one used to fill. Finding ways to manage reef health and growth is important to global environmental conservation. Understanding this pattern of coral disturbances can assist reef management persons and organizations address global disturbances at the local level. In addition, targets for restoration can be elucidated from models of resiliency.

Nurture Nature

The above issues presented reflect the need for an enhanced watch system to ensure the survival of the ecosystems of our environment. There is a need to understand the relevance of the different areas of ecological life in order that an appreciation of the same may be attained. It has been seen that rainforests contribute to the global climate by contributing the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Furthermore, rainforests are a rich source of medicines and treatments which afford relief to many of the known diseases in society today. It has also been seen that much of the ocean’s food bounty is derived from a sensitive ecosystem largely dependent on coral reefs. Coral reefs are an integral part of aquatic ecosystems serving to provide nutrition to small fish and plankton-eating larger fish.

The larger fish which thrive on small fish also find ample supply from the populations living off coral reefs. These reefs are viewed as the natural rainforests of the ocean not only for the diversity of species that thrive off them but also because they serve to control the oxygen and carbon dioxide content of the ocean (Castro & Michael 152). This is essential in ensuring that carbon dioxide levels in the ocean are not poisonous to man. Both rainforests and coral reefs also help to boost national and local economies with their direct contribution as tourist attractions. Such a role serves also to provide occupations to many people in nearby communities.

When the public attains an appreciation for the environment, there will be an increase in the awareness of the risks which nature is exposed to. Many of the risks threatening the current balance of nature are due to the ignorance, negligence and apathy of man. Sheer lack of knowledge of the consequences of their actions perpetuates harmful activities of most people. At other times, it is a lack of understanding of the direct effect of their actions on themselves which allows for their unfettered continuation in abuse of environmental resources.

The biggest enemy that nature faces today is ignorance coupled with selfish motivations. An active, conscious and collective action to safeguard the ecosystems that are alive today is required in order that some of the harm inflicted on nature may be contained, or in some instances reversed. The call to protect nature is more than just an environmentalist slogan geared towards concern for other species. This is a call to help our own species. This is a call to help ourselves as we also find ourselves inextricably connected to the living ecosystems of our planet.

Works Cited

Castro, P. and Michael H. “Marine Biology 3rd ed.” Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2000.

“Coral Reef Resilience: Better Feeders Survive Bleaching.” ScienceDaily. 28 Apr 2006. Brown U. 6 Nov. 2007 .

Goodenough, J., McGuire, B., and Wallace, R. A. “Biology of Humans.” New Jersey: Pearson Prentice-Hall, 2007.

Graham, Linda E. and Lee W. Wilcox. Algae. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2000.

Mumby, Peter J., Alan Hastings, and Helen Edwards. “Thresholds and the resilience of Caribbean coral reefs.” Nature 450 (2007): 98-101.

National Safety Council. 4 Nov 2007. “Environmental Health Center: Glossary.” 7 Nov. 2007 .

Nature Conservancy. “Florida Reef Resilience Program.” 2007. 7 Nov. 2007 .

Nybakken, James W. “Marine Biology: An Ecological Approach.” San Francisco: Benjamin Cummings, 2001.

Myers, N. “The primary source.” New York: W. W. Norton and Co., 1985.

Stevens, P. and Kelley, K. “Embracing Earth, New Views on Our Changing Planet.” San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1992.

Weather Glossary. 2007. WeatherBug. 7 Nov. 2007 .

Whitmore, T. C. “An introduction to tropical rain forests 2nd ed.” New York: Oxford University Press, 1998

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