Forum Discusses Species Conservation Model

Date Posted: 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

WDTV - You may know the words to Country Roads and if you do then you know half of it is about nature in our state. What you might not know is that we have the second greatest species diversity in the world after the Amazon Rainforest. So with great species diversity comes great responsibility and in Randolph County they're teaching and developing something to make sure we stay up there with the Amazon.

It's called a species distribution model. It's used to understand the habitat of rare plants here. We have six of them that conservationists are trying to keep alive in our state. But the first step to keeping something alive is knowing where it is. The model narrows down where to look based on environmental factors and different variables.

So why do officials say it's important to conserve these rare plants? One doctor says it could impact us in a big way.

"We want to conserve species because they're pretty or because they might in the future have genetic information that helps us make a new medicine that might cure cancer," said Dr. Crystal Krause, assistant professor of biology and environmental science at Davis & Elkins College. "And that's really important. And if we lose species that we don't know a whole lot about we might lose that cure for cancer."

It's all part of the fact that the picture is much bigger than just us.

"We don't realize how things are so interrelated," said Dr. Shawn Stover, professor of biology at D&E. "We may not interact directly with a lot of species, with plants or animals, on a daily basis but the fact that they're there performing their function in the ecology makes a big difference."

A student at the forum on this says it's gotten him thinking about the infrastructure being built in the county.

"With gas lines and things we have to be very observant with things like endangered species that might affect other species and end up affecting us," said pre-veterinary major Mark Cordle.

This was the reason the U.S. Forest Service gave for rejecting the proposed route for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline through some national forests. They said the forests are home to sensitive animal species.

Stover says the first step to all of this is getting people to understand species' roles so that it makes sense as to why they'd want to conserve them.