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Native Ecosystems

Robert E. Ricklefs, graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, defines the word ecosystem in his wonderful book Ecology as:

All the interacting parts of the physical and biological worlds.

When ecologists talk about ecosystems or native ecosystems, they are talking about a big topic! The topic addresses the essence of the natural world and figuring out how it works. Native ecosystems are ecosystems that function with their original parts intact.

The natural biological, chemical, and physical processes that resulted in Earth's rich biodiversity are, however, under threat from myriad environmental problems such as habitat fragmentation, ozone depletion, development, pollution, nonnative species, and damming of rivers (just to name a few!). Altering the processes that resulted in the vast and magical diversity of life has had direct negative impacts on the plants, animals, and microorganisms that depend on these processes. The links between all of these biological and physical parts are, therefore, being severed one by one and eventually the system as a whole (ecosystem) begins to suffer. Placement of a dam on a river might not seem like a big event in the geological history of the Earth, but it can fundamentally change the entire riverine ecosystem and negatively impact the aquatic organisms both upstream and downstream of where its located. A few pieces of litter carelessly tossed at the beach might not seem like a big deal on any time scale but the cumulative impact of this carelessness results in harm to birds and mammals that become entangled in litter or treat it like food. These small or large changes to the native ecosystem add up, and sometimes result in the decline or extinction of certain species. Wilderness is a really just a collection of native ecosystems with the largest wilderness areas often preserving the integrity of the largest portion of the original ecosystem(s). In our efforts to make people more aware of the native ecosystems, biodiversity, and wilderness that surrounds them, the Nicodemus Wilderness Project hopes to educate humanity about the importance of protecting, conserving, and taking care of these precious parts.

Native Ecosystem Links:

Ecosystems: An Introduction

Habitats and Ecosystems

Example: The Everglades Ecosystem


The outstanding scientific discovery of the twentieth century is not television, or radio, but rather the complexity of the land organism. Only those who know the most about it can appreciate how little we know about it. The last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant: "What good is it?" If the land mechanism as a whole is good, then every part is good, whether we understand it or not. If the biota, in the course of aeons, has built something we like but do not understand, then who but a fool would discard seemingly useless parts? To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.

- Aldo Leopold -