A keystone species is one that has a significant beneficial impact on its ecosystem as compared to its abundance. Keystone species play an essential role in maintaining and sustaining the structure of the ecosystem. These species help to support biodiversity locally within the environment either through controlling the population of other species that may have otherwise dominate the system or by providing essential resources for some other species (Hale and Koprowski, 2018, p. 441). There is a wide variety of keystone species, and depending on their nature, they contribute a lot to the ecosystem. Without the existence of keystone species, the ecosystem would dramatically be altered or face extinction altogether.
Using Influence as Science as a Human Endeavor (SHE), we can understand the nature of keystone species and their influence on the ecosystem. By using science to understand the importance of these species to the ecosystem, we can then scientifically come up with logical reasons as to why they should be preserved, maintained, and sustained. Furthermore, by understanding why these keystone species should be preserved, we can use scientific and ethical standards to protect the environment for these important species to survive. For example, by understanding the importance of trees, we can ethically advocate for them not being felled and in turn put in place policies and procedures to preserve them.
The keystone species that we will focus on in this paper are the Red Mangroves. Mangroves are tropical forests growing at the coastlines between the land and the sea. They contain dense and robust root systems that trap sediments from the ground and down to the rivers. This aspect is crucial because it helps to stabilize the coastline, therefore, preventing erosion that would occur from storms and waves (Bosma, Hakim, and Groeneveld, 2017 p. 45). Mangroves are also essential to the ecosystem because by filtering out the sediments, they can protect seagrass meadows and coral reefs from being washed away by the deposit.
The roots of the mangroves are also used as medicine to cure various ailments, and their leaves are fodder for livestock. Additionally, mangrove forests act as habitats to an array of fish, shrimp, and crab. These aquatic species are a vital source of food for hundreds of communities living in the coastline around the world. Research shows that there are 25 times as many fish species near mangrove forests as compared to areas where the forests have been cut down (Bosma, Hakim, and Groeneveld, 2017 p. 49). Many coastal communities still crucially depend on the ecosystem benefits that these forests provide. For example, if efficiently managed, the mangrove forests can provide sustainable income and food protection for coastal population, thus eliminating poverty, providing social security, and far and wide, sustaining the economy of the countries where they are located.
Despite the benefits of the mangroves on the ecosystem, over 35% of the mangrove forests in the world have already been cleared. These figures are as high as 53% in places like India, Vietnam, and the Philippines. In the United States, these forests are being cleared faster than even in tropical rainforests. The first reason for the disappearance of the mangrove is because of the clearing. Often, these forests are perceived as smelly and unproductive, and therefore humans clear them to make room for settlement, industrial areas, agricultural land and more recently salt lakes (Aheto et al., 2016 p. 47). Another reason for the forests’ disappearance is due to overharvesting. People use mangrove trees for construction, pulp production, wood chip, firewood, and charcoal production.
These activities have taken place for centuries rendering the forests endangered. Another reason for the disappearance is because of changes in the river capacities. The construction of irrigation schemes and dams reduce the level of water reaching the roots of the mangrove trees thus changing the water PH, making the salt level high. When the salt level is too high, the trees are unable to survive therefore die. Similarly, increases in soil erosion as a result of deforestation have led to improvements in sediment amounts in rivers thus interfering with the mangroves’ ability to filter leading to smothering of the forest (Alongi, 2016 p. 335). Another reason why the mangrove forests are becoming endangered is because of pollution. Humans use pesticides, fertilizers, and other toxic chemicals in industries and farming and these are carried to the rivers through erosion or other activities. When animals habituating in the mangrove ingest these toxins, they die while the oil substances smother the roots of the mangroves causing the trees to suffocate.
Protecting the mangrove ecosystem is important because it will help protect the livelihoods of the coast dwellers and the species that depend on them for survival. It is essential for governments to improve the livelihoods of the people around them and advocate for efforts to conserve biodiversity. By doing so, they will ensure the conservation of forests (Jennerjahn et al., 2017 p. 213). Similarly, governments and environmental activists should seek to empower communities to make more informed decisions regarding the management of mangrove and to increase technical and institutional capacity to improve environmental governance at every level. Furthermore, ecological institutions should seek to enhance knowledge about economic, biological, cultural, and social aspects of mangrove forests and indicate the link between the disaster reduction and healthy mangroves.
In conclusion, this paper has addressed the importance of Influence as a Science as a Human Endeavor. We have discussed how the influence of the Mangrove forest as a keystone species is essential in conserving the ecosystem in terms of preventing erosion, habituating other species, and providing medical resources and food for local communities. This said we have also highlighted how the learning about the importance of the mangrove can influence governments and stakeholders to take action towards conserving the forest for the well being of the entire ecosystem.
Aheto, D.W., Kankam, S., Okyere, I., Mensah, E., Osman, A., Jonah, F.E. and Mensah, J.C., 2016. Community-based mangrove forest management: Implications for local livelihoods and coastal resource conservation along the Volta estuary catchment area of Ghana. Ocean & coastal management, 127, pp.43-54.
Alongi, D.M., 2016. Present state and future of the world’s mangrove forests. Environmental conservation, 29(3), pp.331-349.
Bosma, R.H., Hakim, L.L. and Groeneveld, R.A., 2017. Investing in climate change mitigation and adaptation on mangrove and aquaculture doubles benefits.
Hale, S.L. and Koprowski, J.L., 2018. Ecosystem‐level effects of keystone species reintroduction: a literature review. Restoration Ecology, 26(3), pp.439-445.
Jennerjahn, T.C., Gilman, E., Krauss, K.W., Lacerda, L.D., Nordhaus, I. and Wolanski, E., 2017. Mangrove ecosystems under climate change. In Mangrove Ecosystems: A Global Biogeographic Perspective (pp. 211-244). Springer, Cham.