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World Environment Day 2014: Regents’ Students Reflect on the Threats

05 June 2014

Recently, International Baccalaureate students studying Biology and ESS (Environmental Systems and Societies) welcomed research scientist Charlotte Palmer from Operation Wallacea to Regents International School Pattaya.

  • Regents' students learn about marine ecosystems
  • Regents' International Baccalaureate students studying Environmental Systems and Societies
  • students understanding biodiversity

Operation Wallacea runs a series of biological and conservation management research programmes in remote locations across the world. These expeditions are designed with specific wildlife conservation aims in mind – from identifying areas needing protection, through to implementing and assessing conservation management programmes. Our Students have been invited to join Operation Wallacea and its large survey teams of academics and volunteers on one of their expeditions next year to gather data and help with organising effective conservation management programmes.

In commemoration of World Environment Day 2014, our ESS students take action by identifying top threats to biodiversity – and sharing them with us.

1) Many recent devastating natural disasters have illustrated that climate change is not just a vivid debate led by governments and activists. United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon has declared Climate Change “the major, overriding environmental issue of our time, and the single greatest challenge facing environmental regulators. It is a growing crisis with economic, health and safety, food production, security, and other dimensions.” (Ban Ki-moon, 2008). Caused by emissions of greenhouse gases, climate change and the subsequent temperature changes can negatively influence the abundance and distribution of individual species around the globe, is evidently causing a rise in sea levels, which in turn will affect many coastal ecosystems, and will also pose a threat to the crops we grow, challenging the provision of our food supplies.

2) Overuse and exploitation of resources by humans has caused the endangerment and subsequent extinction of hundreds of species. Most extinctions are a direct result of over-harvesting for human demands such as food, construction, pet trade, fashion and traditional medicine, and bring with them a threat to unbalance whole ecosystems.

3) Most conservation biologists agree that habitat loss and fragmentation are the single most important causes of biodiversity loss. Habitats and all organisms in them are at threat where native vegetation is cleared or wetlands and floodplains drained for agriculture, industry, housing and timber. Remaining habitats are at threat from fragmentation, making them too small for organisms to survive, or too far apart for organisms to move between.

4) The pollution of air, land and water affects biodiversity and leads to imbalances in the ecosystems which ultimately kill individuals and species and destroy habitats. Industrial, agricultural and waste-based pollutants prove to have catastrophic effects on the balance of species; pollution can act as a selective agent where more tolerant species survive, while those requiring pristine conditions will not. Furthermore, pollutants contribute to climate change.

5) Legal and illegal wildlife trade is a big business that threatens to overturn decades of conservation efforts. Whether it be the illegal poaching of elephants, tigers or lesser known species, such as marine turtles or timer trees, or whether it be the legal selling of wild plants and animals for food, pet trade, leather, ornamental decoration and medicine – where wildlife trade is illegal or unsustainable, it threatens many species and whole ecosystems.

Take action!
  • Get informed, and share your information! It has been discovered that awareness of climate change and its devastating consequences increases people’s willingness to get active.
  • Shift from ‘want’ to ‘need’. Buy only products that you truly and genuinely need.
  • Plant a tree! Trees clean the air of environmental pollutants, provide oxygen and provide a cooling effect to dense urban areas. Buy only products that have recyclable packaging and recycle as much waste as possible. Buy high quality products that do not need to be replaced regularly. Travel climate-consciously. Use public transport more often - or reconquer your city on foot. Fly only when you really need to, and opt for a smaller car – or how about riding a bike instead?
  • Reduce your energy and water consumption: Switch your computer to ‘Idle’ as soon as you stop using it. Unplug it from the power source when you switch it off. Never heat more water than you need and use an electric kettle; as they are far more efficient than hotplates. Take quick showers and turn the water off whilst you are soaping yourself to reduce water and energy waste.
  • Opt for organic food. They are grown without artificial fertilizers and pesticides, their cyclical farming causes less greenhouse gas emission, and animal fodder is sourced locally. Eat locally produced food that’s in season. Eat all of the food you buy, and try to buy Fairtrade. Eat less meat, and only opt for sustainable fish.
  • Do not buy souvenirs made from endangered animal parts, and check the ingredients list of traditional medicines before you buy. Make conscientious choices when you consider purchasing a pet and make sure they are captive-bred. Do not keep wild animals as pets; do not buy wild animals with the intention to rescue them. Don’t take photos with captive, wild animals. Before visiting zoos and rehabilitation centres, check where they obtain the animals.