Animal Conservation

WA ecosystems are changing. Conservation efforts are also

The 40-acre bog is covered in red, orange, and green sphagnum moss, giving the wetland the appearance of a dated shag carpet. The mat compresses with every step Rocchio takes, like a waterlogged memory foam mattress that springs back into place as he takes his weight off. The less decomposed, the more elastic, says Rocchio, who has personally invested in the bog.

“I’ve been here so many times, [my kids are] like, ‘Where are you going daddy?’ “I’m going to the bog. So slowly, over time, it became daddy’s swamp,” he says.

This passion drives the ecologists in the Natural Heritage Program to avidly classify, inventory and study native flora to help protect it as effectively as possible. Although the Heritage program focuses on plants and plant communities, especially rare ones, conserving important plant habitats can benefit other living things.

Given the importance of biodiversity, it’s a big job.

Ecosystems can often continue to function well even when certain species disappear. After enough losses, however, they fundamentally change. These functions, or ecosystem services, include regulating water, providing habitat for pollinators, filtering nutrients and serving as a carbon sink.

“So it’s important to have a diversity of species that play different roles and do different things to keep these ecosystems functioning,” says Dr Joshua Lawler, a conservation-focused ecologist and professor at the University of Washington, who prepared reports on the relationship. between climate change and biodiversity in the state.

Site designations of natural areas have been extremely effective so far, Rocchio says. Last year, program ecologist David Wilderman analyzed them and found that these sites, which make up about 0.4% of the state’s landmass, represent members of nearly 60% of native plant species. of State.

But climate change requires an updated approach so that state conservationists can understand how many rare species and ecosystems are extremely vulnerable to climate change.

Rocchio says that’s why he’s passionate about watching them. “We need to measure these changes that we think are happening, because often things happen in non-intuitive ways,” he says.