When was the last time that you were in nature? The wind blowing through the trees, the grass under your feet, the birds chirping on the branches with the bees precariously landing on a flower to collect pollen and nectar and perhaps you can hear a river gurgling in the distance. Nature is all around us whether you just step out into your garden at home or drive for a couple of hours to a national park. The natural environment is the source from which everything we depend on comes from. Without these necessities, life on earth would not exist and most of us know exactly what they are so let’s not beat about the bush.
- Air (mainly oxygen from trees)
We extract and cultivate many other items which are naturally produced by the environment. This includes honey, gold,oil, coal and seaweed, this list can grow very long.
Nature offers humans many opportunities to have fun and put enjoyment into our lives. This includes nature walks, bird watching, game viewing, fishing, boating, canoeing, hiking, exploring, photography and much more. Having visited a number of big cities around the world as well as natural open landscapes, I have found that being in nature or surrounded by it is definitely much more relaxing then being in the big city. If nothing else the beauty and tranquillity of nature cannot be beaten. I have been spoilt for choice, living in South Africa as there are so many beautiful natural areas. In Cape Town alone, Table Mountain is probably the most photographed landmark in Africa. This being closely rivaled by both sunrise and sunset over the savannah or ocean horizon.
The role nature plays
The environment and all its organisms are interlinked with each other and depend on each other. In 1995 wolves (Ursus arctos horribilis) were reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park after a 70 year absence due to extermination. Before the wolves (Ursus arctos horribilis) were reintroduced, large herds of elk (Cervus canadensis) roamed the park and had overgrazed large parts of it. Due to the wolves (Ursus arctos horribilis) preying on the elk (Cervus canadensis), the elk (Cervus canadensis) were forced to move around more often than before and so gave the vegetation time to recover. Trees were able to re-establish themselves particularly along the river banks which ultimately stabilized the river banks and slowed and cleaned the water. Many other species which had not been seen for many years in the park started returning, these included beavers (Castor Canadensis), bears (Ursus arctos horribilis) and a variety of bird species. It is still being studied whether or not the wolves (Ursus arctos horribilis) were solely involved with changing the landscape at this extreme level and that other factors contributed to the upliftment of the ecosystem. However this phenomenon is called a trophic cascade and shows not only how vegetation and animals interrelate with each other but also how many animals rely on other species of animals in order to live in a functional ecosystem.
Coral reef, mangrove forest, and salt marsh ecosystems are nature’s defences against storm surges. A study shows that coral reefs reduce more than 85% of wave energy and mangrove forests decrease water level surges by up to half a meter for every kilometre of their width. As for salt marshes, ongoing research at the University of Cambridge recently revealed that over a distance of 40 meters salt marsh reduced the height of large waves by 18%. Planning and constructing artificial replicas to provide the same amount of protection as coral reefs, mangroves, and salt marshes is foreseeable, but needs vast amounts of money and infrastructure. Unlike artificial infrastructure, which begins to deteriorate soon after it is built and requires continued investment and maintenance for its entire service, living infrastructure is self-maintaining and naturally arise more and more value over time. In the coastal communities fortunate to have such intact natural defenses, nature is already providing important protection against climate change. In areas where these ecosystems have been destroyed or largely degraded, restoring these natural ecosystems may be the best option going forward.
The natural environment aids in regulating the earth’s climate. Ecosystems such as rainforests, peatlands, and mangroves store large amounts of carbon, while the ocean captures significant amounts of carbon through phytoplankton. While regulating greenhouse gases are important in the era of accelerated climate change, modern research is stating that the world’s ecosystems may also play a role in weather. A new study found that the Amazon rain forest acted as its own ‘bioreactor’, building clouds and precipitation through the abundance of plant materials in the forest.
The environment plays significant roles in all our lives, however the human population has disrupted many functional ecosystems through land degradation, pollution, alien species and population growth. We need to start finding ways in which humans and the natural world can function in a peaceful equilibrium with each other. We may be the most intelligent species roaming the earth currently but that does not give us the right to take over and destroy all other life on earth. Everything that we depend on in life in order to stay alive comes from nature. Don’t you think its time we stop exploiting the environment for our own personal gain and start protecting what’s left.
Daimen. 2018. Community Forests International. June 1.
Hance, J. 2011. What does Nature give us? A special Earth Day article
Gertz, E. 2014.Has The Reintroduction Of Wolves Really Saved Yellowstone? March 14