Never stop learning with Curiosity Learning Paths!

  • Get inspired with the web’s best bite-sized learning content, curated for learners like you.
  • Learn more—quickly and easily—by exploring our dynamic Learning Paths.
  • Spread quick knowledge to friends with our original Smart Memes!

Surprising Threats to Biodiversity

Scroll down to explore a learning path based on this topic.
Playlist Description

Biodiversity, in the simplest possible terms, is the range and variety of living things on the planet. The really interesting thing about biodiversity is the sheer number of species that haven’t been discovered yet: the two million or so recorded so far are only a fraction of the estimated total species on earth, which may be as high as 100 million. In fact, new species are discovered all the time.

The more species we find—or lose to extinction—the more we realize how the dynamics of the natural world are a complex web of cause, effect, and interdependency. Evolution has given the planet mutually supportive ecosystems—webs of species that enable and encourage healthy populations in other species, and so in the environment, around them. We’re losing species at an unprecedented rate, and that’s bad news for life on Earth— including humanity. Here are some of the surprising factors that are affecting our planet’s biodiversity.

04:25
Add to Playlist
Watch Later Added
  • Actions
  • About This Video
You've probably heard about the sudden and mysterious drop in honey bee populations throughout the U.S.A. and Europe. Beekeepers used to report average losses in their worker bees of about 5-10% a year, but starting around 2006, that rate jumped to about 30%. Today, many large beekeeping operations are reporting that up to 40 or 50 percent of their swarms have mysteriously disappeared. This massive die-off of honey bee populations has been dubbed colony collapse disorder, and it is a big, big deal. Find out more in today's episode of SciShow. Like SciShow? Want to help support us, and also get things to put on your walls, cover your torso and hold your liquids? Check out our awesome products over at DFTBA Records: http://dftba.com/artist/52/SciShow -- Looking for SciShow elsewhere on the internet? Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/scishow Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/scishow Tumblr: http://scishow.tumblr.com References for this episode can be found in the Google document here: http://dft.ba/-6s9Z
01:16
Add to Playlist
Watch Later Added
  • Actions
  • About This Video
Protecting Bees While Building Infrastructure - as part of the news series by GeoBeats. Researchers at Washington State University are studying the flight patterns of alkali bees in order to help them safely cross over a planned highway. Sponsored by the Washington State Department of Transportation, the study will try to determine if an effective barrier can be built to keep bees out of traffic and out of harms way. The bees are a concern because they are an agricultural necessity for the alfalfa farmers in the area, which is home to some 17 million alkali bees. Efforts to build a mesh fence that will force the bees to fly over the highway traffic rather than through it have been promising. Head of the research team Douglas Walsh said, "This project will decrease the impacts of WSDOT highway construction on both farmers and their important bee resource." Washington isn't the only place trying to retain or revitalize their bee population. The short-haired bee was extinct in Britain in 2000, but about fifty bees have been relocated from Sweden and will hopefully be able repopulate the area. The United Nations has estimated that 90 percent of the world's food comes from about 100 different crops, over 70 of which are pollinated by bees.
03:53
Add to Playlist
Watch Later Added
  • Actions
  • About This Video
Though some claim factory farming is necessary to feed the Third World, it requires seven calories of input to generate one calorie of food. Question: Could we really feed the nearly 7 billion people on earth without factory farming?Jonathan Safran Foer: Well the argument is sometimes made that factory farming feeds the world and it's not only untrue, it's the opposite of the truth.  It takes seven calories of food input into an animal to produce one calorie of food output.  It's an extraordinarily inefficient way to produce food.  Now, it's true that there are some landscapes in the world and some you know, communities where meat really is the only option, and I would not argue against that at all, but that's not what we're talking about when we talk about the meat industry.  We're talking about McDonald's.  That's what we're talking about.  We're talking about Burger King, we're talking about airport food, we're talking about supermarket meat, Tyson's, Smithfield, and this is food that is not only not going to hungry people, but in a very direct way is injuring the Third World.  Absolutely raping Brazil, you know, the number one cause of deforestation of the world, number one cause of the loss of biodiversity. And the way the subsidy structure works makes it almost impossible for, for example, countries in Africa to produce their own food.  So we can absolutely eliminate animals from the equation.  They are not necessarily the most important part of this conversation.  If what you care about is hungry people eating, then that in and of itself is a very good reason to reject factory-farmed animal products. Question: How do farm subsidies exacerbate the factory farm problem?Jonathan Safran Foer: Well, there's a farm subsidy structure now that encourages us or encourages farmers I should say, to feed corn to cows.  Now, corn is not a food that they're naturally able to digest.  This is why virtually all cows in the country are on antibiotics and other kinds of special drug additives in their feed.  Ironically, one might say, cows naturally digest grass, which is a food that humans can't naturally digest.  So instead we're feeding them something, corn and soy, that you know, could go into human mouths.  Vegetarians are often made fun of for eating a lot of tofu, but 98% of the soy crop in the world goes to cows; to feeding livestock.  So, in any case, we have now created an economic system which is very advantageous to feed animals unnaturally, house them unnaturally, and raise genetic stocks that are destined for illness.  And the small farmers, who are really the heroes of my book, farmers at places like Niman Ranch, farmers like Frank Reese at Good Shepard, farmers like Paul Willis, are at a severe economic disadvantage for doing things the right way; for being environmentally responsible; for treating their animals like animals rather than like rocks or pieces of wood. Question: Is the farming situation as bad in other countries, or is this a uniquely American invention? Jonathan Safran Foer: The factory farm is an American invention, but it's a global problem.  So in German, for example, 98% of the meat that they consume comes from factory farms.  It's 99% in America.  In England, it's about 95%.  So there are differences.  And some of the differences are very important.  The European Union has been much more progressive with food laws than the United States.  But there's no reason to be hopeful and unfortunately China and India are now changing their eating habits and their farming techniques to resemble the United States.  And if the Chinese and Indians eat like Americans do, and everything else in the world holds constant, if the population holds constant, we're going to have to farm twice as many animals as we do now.  That will be 100 billion animals every year. Recorded on August 26, 2010Interviewed by Max Miller
01:37
Add to Playlist
Watch Later Added
  • Actions
  • About This Video
Before buying an exotic pet, do research at a veterinary clinic, in books and at the pet store. Buy rodents, rabbits or reptiles with information from a veterinarian in this free video on exotic pets and pet care. Expert: Dr. James Talbott Bio: Dr. James R. Talbott is a staff veterinarian at Belle Forest Animal Hospital and Kennel in Nashville, Tenn. Filmmaker: Dimitri LaBarge
08:11
Add to Playlist
Watch Later Added
  • Actions
  • About This Video
It's war in many ecosystems around the world as invasive and native species battle for primacy. Facing the increased exchange of ship ballast water among worldwide ports, biologists are grappling with a rate and scale of alien takeovers unprecedented in history. In this Bio Bulletin, see the mussels and crayfish that are stressing the vast freshwater network of the Great Lakes region, and learn what researchers are doing to give native populations a leg up.
05:12
Add to Playlist
Watch Later Added
  • Actions
  • About This Video
Regulated, sustainable palm oil production which does not threaten primary forest and provides fair working conditions for growers has been developed by WWF and RSPO. Look out for CSPO on product labels for certified products. For more information: http://wwf.panda.org/what_we_do/footprint/agriculture/palm_oil/solutions/ Author: WWF International Copyright: WWF