01 Apr Ecological Interconnections
Everything is connected.
Most of us know about food chains. The beetle eats the plant, the frog eats the beetle, the snake eats the frog and the hawk eats the snake, right? But an ecosystem is much more complex than that. Not only are there multiple food chains occurring in a given habitat, there are many other connections as well.
Perhaps the best known of these scenarios was articulated by Rachel Carson in the 1960’s. At that time, the majestic bald eagle was dying off. Our national emblem was on its way to extinction. Many thought that the cause was poisoning of adult eagles, but that was incorrect. DDT, a common pesticide, was sprayed over miles of cropland. Washout from the land drained into nearby streams and waterways, contaminating the fish that the eagles ate. This caused a thinning of the shells of eggs that were laid. When the adult went to sit on them to incubate, they would break, causing reproduction rates to plummet.
Once the cause was determined, changes were made and hope sprang up. A direct response to the outlawing of DDT was a rise in eagle population and, eventually, removal from the endangered species list.
You see, ecosystems act as a balanced web – when one or two pieces of the web are touched, it affects the whole structure. We can help by keeping these ecosystems (whether it is a large forest or your own backyard) clean and habitable for native species. Pick up litter, plant a native plant or two, learn about and enjoy some of our local flora and fauna. Small accomplishments create big impact!