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MAIN Arrow to Society Society Arrow to Go Green Guides Go Green Guides Arrow to Conservation Conservation

In 1864, President Abraham Lincoln signed a bill giving over Yosemite National Park and a grove of giant sequoias in California "for public use, resort and recreation."

With the addition of the wording "...and inalienable for all time" Yosemite became the first public land ever set aside by a federal government simply to protect them, and to allow for their enjoyment by all people.

Today, many other preservation efforts have been successful as parks, land conservancies and protected coastal areas.

But what about conservation? As our understanding of the interconnectedness of nature intensifies, so too have the efforts to conserve -- and not just isolated areas of natural beauty -- but whole ecosystems.

Why conservation is so important

Like birds flying south for winter, many large land animals will travel hundreds or even thousands of miles, depending on the season. However, in North America, their travel is often impeded by human infrastructure, such as roads, as the migration routes are increasingly encroached upon by development that threatens their extinction.

10th century view of Yellowstone and Hubble image of planet earth
Preservation is SO 19th century. Today, universal conservation efforts raise the stakes by promoting protection
of the entire Earth, the only planet we've got. At left, Looking Down Yosemite Valley, California, painted
in 1865. At right, a 21st century Hubble image of the Earth as seen from space.

Conservation is also a particularly hot topic in developing nations across the world. As their economies grow, countries may begin to exploit the natural resources which can have a huge negative impact on the ecosystem within their borders.

In China, for example, many conservation efforts are aimed at trying to prevent deforestation, which is at least partially responsible for the increased rate at which the Gobi desert is transforming the landscape of China into a parched and unusable desert tract.

In Brazil, the Amazon rainforest is another massive ecosystem that many conservationists believe is on the verge of collapse. Slash-and-burn farming is slowing eating away at the Amazon rainforest, and many conservationists believe that, eventually, deforestation will reach a point where the forest will no longer be a self sustaining ecosystem, and the entire forest will begin to wither and die.

The world's oceans, too, are perhaps the biggest ecosystem in dire need of conservation as water pollution, overfishing, and habitat destruction have compromised the entire ocean ecosystem.

As science has shown us just how interconnected the world really is, conservation efforts across the world have expanded as the help raise the consciousness of the general public on the topic. Conservation is no longer about preserving isolated pieces of land, but rather about preserving a delicate ecosystem called planet Earth.

More information on conservation around the Web:

Conservation International - Central clearinghouse of information and learning resources by topic including climate change, oceans and forests, species protection and ecotourism plus a guide with tips on how everyone can contribute to conserving and protecting the earth's natural resources.

Conservation Magazine - The online edition of the print publication with current and archived feature articles browseable by subject area including teaching resources, subscription information.

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