Maintaining biodiversity in Okanagan is vital

Ecologists and evolutionists from across the country are meeting in the Okanagan, a biodiversity hotspot.

SFU biodiversity professor Arne Mooers.

The Okanagan is a hotspot of biodiversity and of species at risk in Canada and with that comes a responsibility to conserve the natural environment here to protect its species.

“Wherever humans like to be—because there’s water, sun and good soil—tends to be where other living things do best too,” explains Arne Mooers, biodiversity professor at Simon Fraser University and a delegate to this week’s conference of the Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution being held at UBCO in Kelowna.

The threat is conversion of land to such uses as agriculture and backyards, in addition to the pollution created by people.

Habitat loss is the largest reason for the loss of land-based species, he says, and in the Okanagan there’s been a lot of conversion of wild land to other uses in the past decade or two.

Once a species is lost, it’s far more expensive and difficult to restore it, than it would have been to conserve its habitat in order to prevent it from being extirpated.

He describes biodiversity as “ all the bits of living things around you and what they do; their interaction. A biodiverse area is one with lots of life,”

If we value biodiversity, then there’s strong evidence that we need to make sure we keep all the bits of the natural environment intact, even if we’re not sure which ones are important.

For instance, it’s been discovered that even rare species often play a vital role in an ecosystem, even if it’s just in keeping an invasive species out of it, he said.

Generally, the best advice is “if an ecosystem is working, don’t mess with it, because we don’t know it all,” he added.

Aside from advantages to us—like a particular plant or bird is pretty or we enjoy it—there are also ethical reasons for conservation. “They were here first,” he explains, adding, “but there may be far more important reasons that we know nothing about.”

Both conserving and restoring come with a cost, and since we all benefit from both, we should all bear our share of the cost. And, we all have a role to play.

That can include such inexpensive actions as staying on the trails in a wilderness park or pulling an invasive plant.

Because Canada is a northern country, there simply aren’t a lot of species in it, yet Canada does have as high a percentage of endangered species as anywhere else. That’s because there’s abundant wildlife, but the biggest range of species live in the same areas of the country that people want to live in.

Canada used to be a leader in its efforts to conserve biodiversity, but that’s changed, says Mooers.

It was the first industrialized country to sign the international Convention on Biological Diversity in 1992. That was the reason the Species at Risk Act was passed in 2002.

Yet, to date, the act has not been adequately implemented and scientists are concerned amendments are being considered that would weaken the existing legislation.

Amendments to the federal Fisheries Act last year resulted in a flood of objections from scientists across Canada.

 

jsteeves@kelownacapnews.com

 

 

Just Posted

Car thief nabbed by Mounties on wildfire duty

RCMP working wildfires deploy spike belt to nab alleged auto thief from Oliver.

Okanagan Wildfires: An evening update on wildfires and evacuations

A Saturday evening look at the major wildfires impacting the Okanagan and Similkameen.

Update: Mount Eneas wildfire holds at 1,374 hectares

Fire chief Dennis Craig said wind was blowing the fire away from homes

Update: Power restored to 2,000 Lake Country homes

The cause of the outage is unknown

Update: Okanagan Mountain Park fire holds at 400 hectares

The wildfire, also called Goode’s Creek wildfire, continues to burn near Kelowna

BC Games: Day 2 comes to an end

Hundreds of medals have been handed out at the 2018 BC Summer Games in the Cowichan Valley

B.C. mining company, involved in 2014 spill, ordered to pay lost wages

Mount Polley Mining Company must pay wages to 26 employees who were laid off without proper notice

Update: Wildfire near Summerland mapped at 118 hectares

The Mount Conkle wildfire is 90 per cent guarded

Two significant wildfires burning in southeastern B.C.

More than 20 fires were burning in the Southeast Fire Centre as of Saturday afternoon

Volunteers provide the glue that keeps BC Games moving

The 2018 Cowichan Summer Games had more than 2,300 volunteers on hand across Vancouver Island

No Name brand chicken nuggets recalled due to possible salmonella

Canadian Food Inspection Agency says multiple illnesses reported in B.C., Alberta and Ontario

Lodeiro scores twice to help Sounders beat Whitecaps 2-0

Seattle’s Nicolas Lodeiro opened the scoring in the fifth minute when he converted a penalty kick

RDOS fire update: emergency social services moved

Centre moved to Penticton Memorial Arena for Saturday and Sunday

Race walker breaks 18-year-old BC Games record

Zone 6 athlete Olivia Lundman crossed finish line with ease, to loud cheers in Cowichan

Most Read