Posted on February 4th, 2010 3 comments Add a comment >>
Most of us living in the Adirondacks are probably not aware that the UN has proclaimed that 2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity. Bully for you if you knew this!
But let’s take a minute to grasp what “biodiversity” actually means. Author/Harvard Professor, and “Biodiversity Guru”, E.O. Wilson puts it simply as “…the key to the maintenance of the world as we know it…this is the assembly of life that took a billion years to evolve.” And I will add that it has taken only several generations of anthropocentric(human) effects to destroy it in many areas around this planet.
Biodiversity is the collection of all the living organisms, their interactions with one another, their reliance on one another, and their outcomes of these interactions. So, everything is supposed to be working in harmony. But in many areas this diversity has crashed and burned. Many of you learn about this as you hear of the rapid loss of rainforests; degradation of the planets coral reefs; the polluting of the oceans, bays, and freshwaters; and the fragmentation of so many of our natural fields, forests, and wetlands.
In each of these natural areas we find millions of living things(birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, insects, plants,..etc), all living harmoniously until some outside, human-made factor enters the system and then we see a domino-effect of great loss and degradation. OK-enough with the negativity.
Now that we have a working definition, let’s look at this “big picture” view and move it into our neck of the woods.
The biodiversity of the Adirondacks is composed of many, many things. Something like 270+ species of birds. I don’t know how many reptiles/amphibians found specifically in the Adk’s but there are around 69 species of herpetofauna (reptiles and Amphibians)in NY state alone. Fish?-no clue. Insects?-alot! Plants-tons! Mammals…about 54. Fungi…? Lichens…? Mosses…? So you see there are many holes in this long list of diverse things that make up the biodiversity of the Park.
Well, how do we fill those “holes”? WE start counting things! WE list things. WE look under rocks; in the water; up in the trees; down in the soil. Please note that the WE is you and I, and a little help from our scientific experts in the field.
Cue the music- da-dada-da! Enter the world of the Adirondack All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory or ATBI for short. You may have heard of this awe-inspiring, species-counting event that will take years to complete. It’s housed at Paul Smiths College under the moniker Center for Adirondack Biodiversity
Headed up by the very talented director David Patrick, the CAB will take on the task of figuring out what living organisms live in the 6 million acre Adirondack Park. A similar program is underway in the Great Smokey Mountain National Park. Many residents of the Adk’s are already involved in this colossal undertaking and there is hope that this number of citizen scientists will grow.
Back to big picture of biodiversity. Why should we care what’s out there? Well, in the tropical regions of earth we may have a yet-unidentified medical cure for humans. There may be unknown plants that will aid humans in technology or industry. There are still yet unknown birds, frogs, mammals, and other organisms being discovered in these critical areas every year. So yeah, this seems important.
E.O. Wilson says, “It(biodiversity) holds the world steady.”
On another note…just want to say that I’m thrilled to be a part of the Adirondack Explorer community and I hope readers will follow our blogs that will take you all over the Adirondacks, and reveal some pretty cool things about our special place!
…..and for those of us wishing for warmer temperatures and the feel of spring, here’s a nice live cam of a Anna’s Hummingbird on a nest in California. Enjoy!
Photo credit-Brian McAllister-painted turtle