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Kids Connect! Healthy Habitats

By Christine DePetrillo
June 10, 2011
File under: Education, Environmental Protection, Habitat Loss, Healthy Habitat, Wildlife

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What’s a habitat? It’s home, sweet, home for a species. A habitat includes the food, water, cover, and places to raise young that a creature needs in order to survive on this planet.

There are several kinds of habitats such as deserts, forests, grasslands, wetlands, and the tundra. Each of these habitats supports the animals that live in it and contributes to the overall beauty of Earth.

Don’t believe me? Check out these pictures and see for yourself.

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Beautiful, right? Told you.

Now why do I bring up the topic of habitats? Well, unfortunately, habitat loss is the biggest threat to species. Habitat loss can come in different forms. First, there’s habitat destruction, which means natural areas are simply eliminated due to human activities such as mining, logging, agriculture, or urban sprawl.

Urban sprawl is when housing and commercial development moves into open spaces without planning for preservation of the natural habitat. Habitats can also be destroyed by natural causes such as climate change, natural disasters, and invasive species. Imagine for a moment if your school bus dropped you off at your stop at the end of a day of learning, but your home wasn’t where it should be! You’d probably be pretty upset about that. Think about how the animals feel!

Fragmentation is another problem that leads to habitat loss. This means a habitat is divided up into many pieces. Think of someone building a road right through the middle of your home. Might cause some inconvenient, potentially dangerous situations. You’d have to look both ways before you cross the street just to get into the kitchen for a bowl of your favorite cereal. Yikes!

Degradation is a third threat to habitats and mostly caused by invasive species that move into an area where they don’t naturally occur. Think about your own habitat again. More specifically, think about your bedroom perhaps. What happens when your little brother bounds into your private space? There’s no room for you, he touches your stuff, he makes a mess. And this may all happen in under sixty seconds, right? Usually after he leaves, you can return your room back to the way you like it and once again enjoy spreading out in your private space. Some species can’t do the same. An invasive species moves in and completely changes the habitat, making survival for the original species difficult or even impossible.

Clearly, habitats need to be protected. So what can you do?

  1. Reduce, reuse, recycle. For example, if you reduce the amount of paper products you use each day and recycle what you do use, you will be saving trees, an important part of many habitats.
  2. “Adopt” an animal from the World Wildlife Fund. This allows you to donate money toward the protection of a specific species and its habitat. You and your family can do this, or you could make it a school fundraising project for you and your classmates.
  3. Visit national parks and treat them kindly while you’re there. Support of these protected natural places shows you care about habitats.
  4. Write letters to people in your government stating how you feel about endangered species and why you think it is important to protect them.
  5. Take photographs or draw pictures of habitats to remind people how beautiful they are. Seeing is believing.
  6. Research habitats and the species that live in them so you can tell others why we need to conserve natural areas.

Assignment: It’s that time again! A little something for you to do. Pick one of the habitats listed above (deserts, forests, grasslands, wetlands, tundra), and research it by reading books, magazine articles, encyclopedias and/or online sites. Learn as much as you can. Become an expert on that habitat, then share your knowledge with your family, your friends, and your teachers. I’ll bet they’ll be impressed when you say things like, “Did you know forests occupy one third of Earth’s land area?” or “Wetlands are also called swamps, bogs, and marshes.” You’ll become wicked smart when it comes to habitats, and wicked smart people change the world, Earthlings. Yes, they do.

Challenge: Share the most interesting fact you learned from your habitat research with us here in the comments section. I’m looking forward to getting information from all of you!

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