Threatened Natural Treasure

Threatened Natural Treasure

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By Cristian Frers

The extinction or loss of a species is a natural phenomenon that occurs and has happened frequently in the history of life, now if we add technological progress, pollution and the loss of productivity of both soils and bodies of soil to that process. waters, overexploitation and competition with foreign flora and fauna… Extinction is increasing.

Biology defines biodiversity as the variety and variability of living beings and the ecosystems that they comprise. Within biological diversity we can find three levels of components: that of genes, which constitute the molecular bases of inheritance; that of species, which are groups of related organisms capable of reproducing; and that of ecosystems, which give rise to functional complexes formed by organisms and the physical environment in which they inhabit.

We must understand that species are the most widely used scientific tool to measure biodiversity and the first to define conservation policies. Due to this, it is more than important to know the species that inhabit our environment and place them in a classificatory framework based on scientific hypotheses. However, not all the species that exist are known. Most biologists agree that the numbers of known species only indicate a small fraction of the total number of living things that inhabit the planet. If you hypothesize that only 10 million species inhabit the Earth, you would come to the conclusion that science knows only 15% of living species.

At present, 1.4 million living species are inventoried: 250,000 correspond to vascular plants and mosses, 40,000 to vertebrates, 750,000 to insects and the rest to other invertebrates, fungi and microorganisms.

Throughout the world, human beings modify natural areas to meet their needs for services and goods. This is the main cause of the loss of biodiversity. Man is facing two serious problems: the lack of scientific knowledge about the totality of living beings and the mass extinction of species. These problems are interrelated and any solution to them must be based together on generating new knowledge and forging a new relationship with the natural world.

The extinction or loss of a species is a natural phenomenon that occurs and has happened frequently in the history of life, now if we add technological progress, pollution and the loss of productivity of both soils and bodies of soil to that process. waters, overexploitation and competition with foreign flora and fauna… Extinction is increasing.

If we calculate the extinction rate at this time, based on the numbers of species per area, taking into account the loss of tropical forests (approximately 1/3 in the last 40 years), 50,000 species are extinct per year (only 7,000 of them known). This represents 10,000 times the natural rate of extinction and represents 5% of the total species per decade. If these numbers are maintained, by the end of the 21st century, two-thirds of Earth's species will have disappeared.

To modify or try to solve these problems, it is necessary to take the bull by the horns and implement the following actions:
-Guarantee the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.
-Hierarchical government agencies.
-Establish policies that allow an ordering of land use.
-Carry out an audit that provides guarantees for long-term planning.
-Prioritize lines of research that allow knowing the natural heritage.

Knowledge about the biodiversity of species in Argentina is very uneven. Comparing it with the rest of Latin America, flora is one of the best surveyed groups. However, there are many species to discover, to which is added the permanent change of taxonomic location. We can take as an example, the two classic drunken palos, the northeastern samohú and the yuchán, are now being postulated as a single species with wide distribution.

In terms of fauna, there is also a long way to go. The discovery of new species for science, including vertebrates, is remarkable. Famous are the cases of the quimilero pig, a peccary the size of a sheep, and the macá tobiano, a diving bird. Both went unnoticed until the 1970s. And even more, since 2003 we have a new species of lizard. The continuous records of birds must be added that, although they may indicate extensions of their distributions, are largely due to the uneven knowledge of some localities.

The species biodiversity in Argentina is easily imaginable if we look at its geography. It is one of the largest countries in the region, and in which 18 ecoregions can be distinguished. Very diverse landscapes are found on a gradient that goes from the Andes Mountains to the sea, over a range of different types of relief, soils and climate. Some of these ecoregions are exclusive, such as those of the mountain, Others, it shares them with neighboring countries, such as the Pampean grasslands with Uruguay, and the Patagonian forest with Chile. Three of the most biodiverse in South America - the missionary jungle, the Yungas and the Chaco - have their southern limit in the country. We cannot forget the extensive maritime coastline that adds its particular biological material.

It is because of this that, despite not having tropical environments, it is home to a wide variety of species. It is not surprising if you see representatives of exclusively American groups, such as the cactus; not many of the Neotropical, such as bromeliads, hummingbirds, anteaters, and armadillos. And of South American endemisms like chuñas and ñandúes.

The presence of entire groups of the greater fauna of South America can help to understand this environmental diversity. Argentina is the only country that has the ten South American felines.

The loss of biodiversity in the country accounts for only two species worldwide: the wolf-fox of the Falkland Islands and the violet macaw, to which the explorers lizard could add; and about ten presumably missing, but with populations in the rest of the continent, such as the choker wolf and the polar plover.

The list of threatened species, on the other hand, marks an alert: 529 animals and 240 plants. Those most sensitive to changes in their habitats, those with large territorial requirements, those of commercial value, and those with restricted distributions head the list. Many with small populations, inhabit deteriorated environments and are battered by endless threats.

Undoubtedly, the future will judge this present and will remember it, among other things, for scientific and technological progress, but a great effort will be important to make it remember us for refusing to destroy life on Earth and with it, having done possible that future.

* Cristian Frers.
Senior Technician in Environmental Management.
Superior Technician in Social Communication.
Tte. Gral. Juan D. Peron 2049 7th. "55".
(1040) Autonomous City of Buenos Aires.
Argentinian republic.

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