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Born To Be Wild: The Current Situation and Possible Future of Wildlife in the United States
This article is from Issue Facts to the Future - Vol. 5 No. 1.
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Animals play an important role in maintaining the health of our natural environment. It is important to know the status of different kinds of animal populations, both now and into the future. One of the questions the scientist in this study wanted to answer was: What are the trends in different wildlife populations?
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Scientific studies can be carried out at a variety of scales. Scales can vary by size and by time. For example, a smallscale study may be conducted at the molecular level, or it might only cover a time period of a few seconds or minutes. A large-scale study may be focused on the stars beyond our solar system, or it might cover a period of years or decades. The scale of this study was large, covering the entire United States and a time period of over 40 years. But there was something very different about the long-time scale of this study! Instead of conducting the research over a period of years, the scientist predicted what might happen in the future. In this study, the scientist was asked to describe the current situation and potential future of different wildlife populations, 40 years into the 21st century.
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In the natural environment, every living thing has a role to play to help keep its ecosystem healthy. Animals do their part to sustain their environment. Bees, for example, pollinate flowers. Some animals eat fruit and later defecate the seeds, which then germinate in the soil. Other animals catch seeds in their fur, and later the seeds fall off and germinate. Animals such as earthworms digest dead plant and animal matter. Worm wastes, called castings, provide nutrients for the soil. Animals use plants for food, shelter, and as a place to raise their young. As you can see, plants and animals depend upon each other In this study, the scientists wanted to predict the future of different types of wildlife. Will the populations of different animal species go up, down, or stay the same in the future? By knowing something about the possible future of different animal species, we can perhaps help those species to stay healthy, and, therefore, help to keep the natural environment healthy.
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