A healthy planet is full of plants and wildlife that all play important roles in their habitats.
That’s called biodiversity. But removing— or adding—just one species can affect the entire ecosystem, often with bad results. Here's what you can do to prevent declining biodiversity and keep Earth wild.
1. KEEP TO THE TRAIL
Always stick to the trail when hiking, and keep your pup on a leash.
2. SKIP THE SELFIE
Riding elephants, holding monkeys, and snapping pics with lion cubs might seem fun, but these animals might have been snatched from the wild and aren’t being properly cared for. Avoid these activities on vacation unless you know the group is trustworthy and not exploiting animals. Ask your parents not to "like" similar photos on social media.
3. SHOP SMART
Avoid souvenirs or other items made from animal parts like scales, teeth, feathers, tortoise shells, seashells, coral, and especially ivory. Animals might have been harmed or disturbed to make them.
4. COUNT ’EM
Participate in a citizen science project to tag, track, or identify animals. The information you gather can help biologists learn how the animals are adapting to climate change, habitat destruction, and other problems.
7. BAD PLANTS
Invasive species are plants and animals that don’t belong in a habitat. They can destroy native species and shake up the whole ecosystem. You can help! Sign up to help remove invasive plants at a local park or nature center.
8. LIGHTS OFF
Birds can become confused by bright nighttime lights, causing them to collide with windows or fly in circles until they’re exhausted. Turn off unnecessary lights at night in the spring and fall, when birds are migrating. You can also talk to your parents about turning off the lights at their high-rise offices.
9. FIND THE RIGHT FISH
Bluefin tuna and Atlantic halibut are large fish that reproduce and grow very slowly—so try to avoid eating them unless you know they’ve been fished sustainably. Use a guide like FishWatch to select a swimmer that can be removed from the ocean without harming the ecosystem.
10. CAREFUL AQUARIUM
Think that Dory-looking blue tang would make a good pet? Think again. These fish are difficult to breed in captivity, so blue tangs you see in a store have likely been taken from the wild. That could upset the habitat. If you have a tank, make sure your fish were bred in captivity, not taken from the wild.
11. DON’T FEED THE WILDLIFE
Feeding animals makes them less fearful of and more dependent on humans, which affects the critters’ ability to survive. Plus, people food can make animals sick. (Bird feeders are OK—just give the fliers plenty of space!)
12. LOOK—DON’T TOUCH
Bring binoculars on an outdoor adventure to enjoy wildlife from afar. That way you don’t disturb animals, which can change their behavior. Critters are better off spending energy looking for food or caring for young—not hiding from you!
Photo credits: Arun Roisri, Dreamstime (2); Marcia Straub, Getty Images (5); Ernita, Shutterstock (6); Zorandim, Dreamstime (7); iliuta goean, Shutterstock (10); sjallenphotography, Getty Images (13)