Posted by: Dan | June 23, 2010

Why Conserve Species?

What is the importance of conserving species?

Biodiversity refers to the diversity of life forms within a given ecosystem, biome, or the entire earth. When people speak of “conserving species,” they generally are referring to the goal of maintaining this diversity of life.

Typically the first reason people think of for conserving species diversity is the aesthetic value of species. Each species can fascinate us with its uniqueness, generating public appeal.

More objectively however, the importance of conserving species diversity rests upon the ecological services that each species performs within its environment. That is, each species is important for how it generates and processes resources in the area in which it lives. Each species produces and consumes matter, which is made or used by something else, according to its availability, creating what is called the food web or the food chain. And when a species goes missing from this network, typically another species or it’s products begin to over-accumulate, throwing the ecosystem out of balance.

Thus, species often indicate the health of our ecosystems. Additionally, monitoring species can often be the easiest way to recognize pollution in a habitat, providing warning of pollution that could adversely effect human health.



  1. Nice post Dan… Remind me of something ;-) Biodiversity might be a difficult concept to understand for some people, it’s nice to explain it…

  2. Thanks Chris. I wonder though, how might you or others improve upon this explanation…

  3. You mean as a definition of Biodiversity! I do not really like this word… I feel it is a big bag in which everybody is putting everything….a little bit like climate changes effect! Well that’s my personal idea!

    I’m mainly working on conservation of exploited marine resources such as North Atlantic fish (cod, redfish) and on conservation of marine organisms…. I’m more or less for the ecosystemic approach, which means that the conservation of an ecosystem is much more important than anything else…

    Now the difficulty, which I think we are facing now is to know if the changes of this ecosystem are natural or human-induced changes. That’s another concern, but now we are mainly saying that we are destroying the biodiversity (I have no doubt we affect it in some ecosystems), but it is also difficult to see and detect what species decline are just part of a natural cycle…
    Well I’ll stop there, i could write for pages otherwise…
    Thanks for discussing this interesting point anyway!

  4. Yes, a definition. :-) Because I think that biodiversity can mean different things to different people, and some may be more correct than others for one reason or another. I sometimes find it a good exercise for developing understanding of the problem, to meta-analyze definitions. A purely academic exercise, for sure, but still useful.

    I of course agree with an ecosystem approach. But what are the elements that must be preserved to preserve the habitat, which is itself not a tangible object that can be preserved. Obviously the habitat area is itself not the sole thing that you would preserve. Species, too, need to be preserved as habitat elements, but do we continuously monitor all species – we don’t have the resources for this I think. But we can try to identify key species to monitor that might signify the health of the habitat as a whole, and identify other criteria for assessing the health of a habitat or ecosystem.

    But like I said, this is purely academic. And good food for thought!

  5. Well When I say ecosystemic approach that includes everything not only the support but also the species, but as you said, quite hard to achieve. This means that you have to monitor species and among species interactions, species-environment interactions and so on….
    The conservation of the biodiversity is a complex thing and I do not think we can achieve it. We can merely ring the alarm when we detect a problem, but do we detect all problems???
    Like I said, I do not really like the term biodiversity, one of the reason for this being that there are too many definitions ;-)


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