The disappearance of species and the human impact on ecosystems is addressed from different disciplines by scientists around the world, but only a few have seated the bases for their analysis. Among them there are three outstanding names yesterday with one of the most prestigious awards of our country, the BBVA Frontiers of Knowledge Award, which in its XIV Edition has been granted to Simon Levin, Lenore Fahrig and Steward Pickett in the category of Ecology and Biology of Conservation.
The American mathematician Simon Levin is a professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University. With the publication, in 1992, of one of the most cited articles of Ecology, Levin sat the bases of the theoretical models that introduce the space for the analysis of complex ecosystems. The calculations of it have allowed to establish how it works from a small pond to an entire continent, by incorporating the dimension in which species inhabit and interact, that is, the dynamics of biodiversity in a territory.
The jury has valued how these researchers have introduced in the analysis of ecosystems the dimension of the physical space, the territory and their multiple scales, as well as the importance of "the interaction between human and natural systems", as it has been collected in the minutes.
The vital space of the species
"One of the greatest challenges we face is the loss of biological diversity," says Levin. Along with climate change, he considers him one of the biggest problems that our planet suffers. Scientists from all over the world try to address it from different disciplines and for this integrate Levin's models and develop new calculation tools.
In ecology, infinite variables that generate many data are handled. With BIG DATA techniques (analysis of a huge volume of data) try to relate the results and deduce what happens in ecosystems. It also serves, to predict other events, such as the outbreak of new epidemics.
"Fantastic advances in computing and Big Data are having a tremendous impact on the treatment of environmental problems, including infectious diseases," Levin says to the world.
One of the great threats to biodiversity is the loss of the space in which the species live: the reduction, destruction or fragmentation of its habitat. The Ecologist Lenore Fahrig, professor of biology of the University of Carleton (Canada), is a pioneer in the study of the impact that the division in different plots of a territory, how it affects them that these areas, in addition, are disconnected. We speak of two different concepts, the loss or fragmentation of space. The second is, sometimes, less evident but very important. It has a similar effect to separating a people into two and not let both part be communicated.
Therefore, when we talk about ecosystems, a recurring question is how much to protect, if it encompasses extensive or smaller areas, but giving importance to ecological corridors that exist between them. In this there has been a change over the past few decades, since it has always been assimilated that the big thing had to be protected. "It is important to protect both the small fragments of habitat and the big ones," said Fahrig when interviewed on the occasion of the award.
Fahrig's research also collects the impact of roads crossing natural spaces, dividing them, and endangering animals trying to cross them. The work of it has promoted solutions to reduce this problem, such as the installation of fences that prevent animals from dying and tunnels or raised steps for the fauna can pass from one side to another.
"The loss of forests is one of the greatest threats for biodiversity throughout the world. This is particularly true in the Amazon rainforest, which is a critical point. The construction of roads through the Amazon threatens biodiversity by permanently destroying the forest habitat and also by creating 'death areas' for all kinds of creatures that will die in their attempts to cross the roads, "explains Fahrig.
And if we talk about the ecology that surrounds us, that of the cities, all the looks are posed in the third awarded, the American biologist Steward Pickett, a researcher at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies.
Pickett is one of the parents of the so-called urban ecology, which rethink the spaces of the cities to conserve biodiversity. He integrates the human being in ecological theory as a member more of ecosystems and discusses the ethical issues of our domain as a species, especially in our own habitat. "The cities are designed for cars," he criticizes him at the same time as posing a redesign of transportation and spaces to live with plants and animals and improve our quality of life, our physical and mental health.
This is something we have experienced during the confinement in this pandemic, when Isolates us at home to reduce the levels of contagions. Society's paralysis has had an impact on a reduction in traffic, noise and pollution. In addition, in many places we have seen how wildlife and flora recolonated the streets in a very short space of time. Thus we have found the impact we have in our ecosystem.
But it is not the first time it has happened. "The recolonization of the flora and fauna in cities that have lived crises that open spaces or reduce human activity is something that has also happened in the past," Pickett has underlined to this newspaper. The researcher has remembered as wars, floods, fires or earthquakes come followed by similar episodes. "Cities can harbor more biodiversity from which we often see," he said.
"If we make space in the cities for nature, these places can house plants, animals and microbes. The trick consists of planning and maintaining such spaces in our cities and peoples in an intentionally and proactive manner, instead of waiting for a disaster to occur . "Date Of Update: 05 February 2022, 09:30