BARNEGAT BAY-A Question of Vision

When we change an ecosystem to fit our needs, those changes impact on other animals and plants in that system, and, more often than not, we humans are effected in ways we did not originally anticipate. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.

“I think one of the most important things to realize is that the health of humans is dependent upon the health of our ecosystems.”

Joanna Burger is a professor of Biology at Rutgers University. Each summer, for the last 23 years she has been monitoring the sea birds, such as Terns and Skimmers, that compete with humans for space along the Jersey shore.

“And although you can play devil’s advocate and say ‘why is any one species important and why do you care about the Skimmers and why do we care about the Terns,’ each of those organisms has a particular role in the ecosystem. And when you start draining a salt marsh which has a negative effect on the birds, it’s not only the birds that it has a negative effect on. It has a negative effect on the fish, because the salt marshes serve as nurseries for many of the fish that are caught both commercially and recreationally. And if we don’t have healthy bays and healthy estuaries and healthy salt marshes, we will not have the fish stocks that are providing a food source for many people commercially. So that in many ways the birds are not only indicators of their own well being, but they’re indicators of the health of the ecosystem. And what we have to do is stop evaluating habitat by our own aesthetic values, by what we think is nice, by what we see and love. We have to look at where the animals are and say that if the birds can survive here and raise their young, year after year, it has to be good habitat and therefore we ought to preserve it. Whether or not we think it’s beautiful or not.”

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. Additional funding for this series has been provided by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

BARNEGAT BAY-A Question of Vision

Sometimes, in order to appreciate the value of an ecosystem, we have to put ourselves in the place of one of its non-human inhabitants.
Air Date:09/01/1998
Scientist:
Transcript:

When we change an ecosystem to fit our needs, those changes impact on other animals and plants in that system, and, more often than not, we humans are effected in ways we did not originally anticipate. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.

"I think one of the most important things to realize is that the health of humans is dependent upon the health of our ecosystems."

Joanna Burger is a professor of Biology at Rutgers University. Each summer, for the last 23 years she has been monitoring the sea birds, such as Terns and Skimmers, that compete with humans for space along the Jersey shore.

"And although you can play devil's advocate and say 'why is any one species important and why do you care about the Skimmers and why do we care about the Terns,' each of those organisms has a particular role in the ecosystem. And when you start draining a salt marsh which has a negative effect on the birds, it's not only the birds that it has a negative effect on. It has a negative effect on the fish, because the salt marshes serve as nurseries for many of the fish that are caught both commercially and recreationally. And if we don't have healthy bays and healthy estuaries and healthy salt marshes, we will not have the fish stocks that are providing a food source for many people commercially. So that in many ways the birds are not only indicators of their own well being, but they're indicators of the health of the ecosystem. And what we have to do is stop evaluating habitat by our own aesthetic values, by what we think is nice, by what we see and love. We have to look at where the animals are and say that if the birds can survive here and raise their young, year after year, it has to be good habitat and therefore we ought to preserve it. Whether or not we think it's beautiful or not."

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. Additional funding for this series has been provided by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.