CIE A Level Biology (9700) exams from 2022

Revision Notes

18.3.3 Methods of Conservation

Methods of Conservation

  • An endangered species is a species that is being threatened with extinction
  • Conservation of endangered species can be approached in several different ways
  • Ideally a species should be kept in their natural habitat as all the support systems they need to maintain life already exist there
    • National parks and marine parks are examples of conservation methods that do this
  • When it is not possible to do this endangered species can be captured and placed in captivity for conservation efforts
    • Zoos and botanic gardens take part in conservation programmes
  • Scientists have also come up with several methods to try and ensure the long-term survival of endangered species through frozen zoos and seed banks

Conserved areas

  • National parks are areas within countries where the wildlife and environment are protected
  • Governments control these areas and pass legislation to ensure their protection
  • There are several restrictions
    • Humans access is strictly controlled
    • Industrial activities such as agriculture and building are tightly regulated
    • Hunting is limited or completely prohibited
  • Marine parks are protected areas of water that have been set up for the conservation of endangered marine ecosystems and species
    • They also have restrictions to prevent overfishing and pollution
  • Public engagement with conservation efforts is important for long term success:
    • National and Marine parks can attract thousands of tourists each year which increases money and awareness for the conservation effort
    • Involving members of the local community in the management of protected areas can provide jobs and increase acceptance of the parks
    • Some of the profits made from parks can be used to improve the health and education standards in the nearby communities to illustrate the benefits of having such areas nearby

Galapagos Islands

A large proportion of the land and water surrounding the Galapagos Islands is protected. Humans are not allowed to travel to many of the islands in the National park and fishing is illegal in the Marine park areas. Management of these areas is shared between locals and conservation experts. Since it was established over 50 years ago, there have been strong efforts made to remove invasive species and increase native species. Rats and goats are captured and removed and the alien plant species elephant grass is dug up and destroyed while giant tortoises are being reintroduced.

Conservation in captivity

  • Zoos can also contribute towards the conservation of endangered animal species
  • Captive breeding programmes can breed individuals of a species so their offspring can be released into the wild
  • Zoos are an invaluable resource for scientific research
    • Scientists are able to closely study animal’s genetics, behaviours and habitat needs
  • There are some problems with zoos and their role in conservation:
    • Captive breeding of small species populations can reduce genetic diversity
    • Certain animal species will not breed in captivity
    • Not all zoos can provide adequate habitats for animals with specific needs
  • There are stories of both success and failure when it comes to zoos and conservation:
    • The oryx is an antelope-like species that was saved from extinction and reintroduced into the wild in Africa thanks to zoos and captive breeding programmes
    • Pandas have been in captive breeding programs for over 60 years and not a single panda has been reintroduced into the wild
  • Botanic gardens are the plant equivalent of zoos
  • They use cuttings and seeds collected from the wild to establish a population of the endangered species in captivity
  • Methods of tissue culturing and cloning can also be used to obtain large numbers of plants from a small sample size
  • The captive population can be used in the future for reintroduction into habitats where they have become rare
  • Research is a major role of botanic gardens
    • They investigate reproduction and growth in different plant species so that they can be grown in captivity
    • If the plants original habitat no longer exists they try to find suitable new habitats
  • Both zoos and botanic gardens are instrumental to education
    • They help to raise awareness of vulnerable, endangered species and conservation efforts worldwide

Storing genetic material for onservation

  • If a species becomes extinct in the wild then traditional conservation methods are no longer useful
  • New technology has provided ways of storing the genetic material of endangered species so that it is not lost forever
  • Frozen zoos store genetic material from animals (eggs, sperm, tissue samples etc) at very low temperatures so that they can be kept for a very long time
    • Ideally samples are collected from different individuals of the same species to maintain the gene pool
    • The temperature used is roughly -196oC
    • A large amount of genetic material can be stored in a relatively small space
    • In the future genetic materials from extinct animal species could be used to breed and reintroduce a species through IVF and genetic engineering
    • The San Diego Zoo in the USA has frozen zoo facilities
  • A seed bank is a facility that conserves plant diversity by drying and storing seeds in a temperature controlled environment
    • Usually, seeds of the same species are collected from different sites to maintain the gene pool
    • If the plant species goes extinct then the seeds can be used to grow them again
    • Seeds can only be stored for so long. After a certain period of time the stored seeds are grown into plants and fresh seeds for storage are taken from those plants
    • The Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway has almost 1 million species of plant seed. It is located in the Arctic Circle with ideal environmental conditions
    • Many organisations send seeds from crop plants to be stored there for safekeeping
  • Some plants have seeds that can not be frozen such as coffee and cocoa plants
    • In order to preserve the genetic diversity of these plants successive generations must be grown or tissue cultures taken

Summary of conservation of endangered species table

Summary of Conservation of Endangered Species Table, downloadable AS & A Level Biology revision notes

Exam Tip

Remember all of the conservation efforts made to stop a species going extinct is pointless if they don’t have a natural habitat to return to. Conserving whole ecosystems is essential for the long term survival of species.

Areas like tropical rainforests and coral reefs have exceptional biodiversity but they are currently under threat from industrial development, pollution and exploitation.

Author: Lára

Lára graduated from Oxford University in Biological Sciences and has now been a science tutor working in the UK for several years. Lára has a particular interest in the area of infectious disease and epidemiology, and enjoys creating original educational materials that develop confidence and facilitate learning.
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