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UNESCO Paper: the Grand Canyon National Park Essay

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Updated: Mar 23rd, 2022

Introduction

This is a report on the Grand Canyon National Park. This report covers the diversity of life forms found in this region and the biological interrelationship that exists among them. Light is shade on the effect of human intrusion and protection measures that have been taken to reduce the intrusion. Suggestions are made on what ought to be done to preserve the region from human encroachment. The report sends a warning on what is likely to happen if human intrusions are allowed to go on without being checked.

Diversity of Life Forms

The Grand Canyon National Park has been described as a “world heritage site” (Nature & Science, 2010, Para. 1). It is located in northwestern Arizona at the Colorado Plateau and covers approximately 1, 218, 375 acres. The Grand Canyon National park is richly diverse in life forms. Scientists have identified several major ecosystems at the park. It has been reported that the biological diversity in this park is sustained by the five life zones namely “Lower Sonoran, Upper Sonoran, Transition, Canadian, and Hudsonian” (Nature & Science, 2010, Para. 1) and three desserts. The park has been described as an ecological refuge sustaining “undisturbed remnants of dwindling ecosystems” (Nature & Science, 2010, Para. 1) which include the “boreal forest and desert riparian communities” (Nature & Science, 2010, Para. 1). The park is famed for hosting some of the rarest and endangered animal and plant species on earth. In general the park hosts “over 1,500 plant, 355 bird, 89 mammalian, 47 reptile, 9 amphibian, and 17 fish species” (Nature & Science, 2010, Para. 1).

Biological Interrelationships

It is worth noting that the natural setting at the park plays a significant role in ensuring that the ecosystems survive in this region. For instance, it has been noted that the range of elevation displayed by the landscape has made it possible for a multitude of habitats to be formed where wildlife can strive well. The springs and seeps out of the canyon walls sustain eleven percent of the plants in the park. It has been reported that the canyon has acted as a barrier to some species for instance the tasseled eared squirrels. The amphibians in these regions use the Colorado River for breeding purposes. The region contains over 373 species of birds. The birds feed on insects and some feed on fish from the Colorado River. The peregrine falcons have been said to feed on “bats, swifts, and suitable eyrie sites” (Nature & Science, 2010, Para. 1) which are reported to be available in plenty along the river Colorado. The condors have been reported to be opportunistic scavengers feeding on dead animals. There are 33 species of crustaceans in the Colorado River that serve as a significant source of food for the larval rainbow trout, benthic invertebrates larval bluehead and flannelmouth suckers. The mammals in this region feed on vegetation while others like the bats feed on insects along the river. The lions feed on animals such as dears (Nature & Science, 2010). In general, the vegetation provides food for a few herbivores such as dears which are in turn feed by lions and foxes. The carcasses left behind are food for some birds such as the condors. Other birds mainly feed on insects while others on bats and fish.

Human Intrusions

Human intrusion comes in a variety of forms. The national park management is doing its best to educate visitors who frequent the park on the proper management of the wildlife. UNEP (2009) has raised concerns about the number of visitors who frequent the park. It has been argued that the presence of “four to five million annual visitors, their vehicles and wastes, are gradually degrading the Park’s resources both natural and cultural” (UNEP, 2009, para. 1). Visitors are prohibited from feeding animals as this will make them lose their hunting skills. Visitors are also advised not to let lose their pets as they are likely to kill the young ones of animals and can also get killed by aggressive animals. Fishing without a license is prohibited. It has been reported that logging activities elsewhere have threatened the Goshawks and spotted owls (Nature & Science, 2010; Newsome, Moore, & Dowling, 2002).

More intrusions have been comprehensively noted by UNEP

Alien flora and fauna which compete with and sometimes exclude native plants are being systematically extirpated although they number 171 species, and campaigns have been needed to eliminate the feral burros and introduced trout. Destructive fires are reduced by thinning the forests which will allow the beneficial use of controlled burns. The air quality is affected by coal-powered plants in the region and copper smelters in Northern Mexico; regional haze results which can cut visibility by two-thirds. The construction of Glen Canyon dam upstream noticeably reduced the rate of water flow and the amounts of silt and sediment carried down Colorado, lowering the rate and pattern of sediment aggradation and the camping beaches used by river-runners; it has also affected the breeding of sediment-adapted native fish and reproduction of flood-dispersed cottonwoods, favoring invasion by exotic clearwater fish and the proliferation of tamarisk. (UNEP, 2009, para. 1)

The Protections that exist for Safeguarding and Preserving

The Grand Canyon region is under the jurisdiction of the Federal government. The Federal government manages the region through “the National Park Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Reclamation, and the Bureau of Land Management, all in the Department of the Interior, and the Forest Service of the Department of Agriculture” (UNEP, para. 1). Since 1924 the region has been continuously under management with various plans being implemented since then. The park management is based on laws that established the National Park Service. In some of the management activities, local citizens and volunteers have been involved (Graf, 2002). Useful divisions of the region have been carried out for management efficiency:

The Park has been zoned for management purposes. These comprise a natural zone including a proposed Wilderness area (over 90%); Havasupai Uselands and non-wilderness areas and corridors; and a Development zone. Studies of potential boundary adjustments may result in recommendations to revise park boundaries. (UNEP, 2009, para. 1)

Efforts that have been made to further this Preservation

There are many programs run within the Grand Canyon National Park meant to ensure the area is preserved. A good example is the wildlife program which aims at preserving native wildlife populations. The program also aims at reducing the level of human intrusion in the park. Under the program biologists have carried out studies to understand the ecosystem in the park; this knowledge will make it possible for better management of the park (National Park Service, 2008).

Some of the additional activities which can be used to enhance the preservation of the region include planting more of the native plants in regions where they do not exist. There should replanting of regions that are distressed and creation of hiking paths. Appeals should be made to volunteers and the rich to help in the preservation activities. Fundraising activities should be encouraged to fund activities such as the Glen Canyon Dam which has made it possible for floods to be controlled and led to the growth of plants in regions not habitable before.

What will be lost if the human intrusion goes unchecked

It has been noted that already a lot has been lost due to human activities:

Human activities in the Grand Canyon region have eliminated or seriously reduced many of its large predator populations, including black bears, mountain lions, bobcats, and Colorado River otters. Of these animals, the Colorado River otter was restricted to the Colorado River drainage and is now likely extinct. It was never abundant in historic times and did not receive Federal designation under the Endangered Species Act. Despite occasional reported sightings of Colorado River otters in the Grand Canyon, no reliable documentation existed since the 1970s, and recent searches for this otter species have been unsuccessful. The causes of the probable extinction of Colorado River otters include habitat fragmentation, inbreeding, and trapping. (The Grand Canyon National Park Foundation, 2005, para. 1)

If human activities are not regulated then more species are prone to be eliminated. It should be noted that once a species is eliminated it cannot be replaced forever. It is wise if human intrusion which comes in the form of tourism and other means is kept at minimal levels to avoid disturbance of fauna and flora (Roos, Gibbons, & Jones, 2008). It should be noted that any system survives by interdependence. The ecosystem in this region cannot survive if some of its constituents are disturbed or eliminated. Disturbance of some of the elements in the ecosystem will lead to loss of balance of the whole ecosystem which might be catastrophic in the region.

Conclusion

The Grand Canyon National Park is a rich heritage site located in northwestern Arizona at the Colorado Plateau and covers approximately 1, 218, 375 acres. The park is famed for hosting some of the rarest and endangered animal and plant species on earth. It has been observed that the biological interrelationships in this region are quite detailed. For instance, it has been noted that the range of elevation displayed by the landscape has made it possible for a multitude of habitats to be formed where wildlife can strive well. The vegetation provides food for a few herbivores such as dears which are in turn fed on by lions and foxes. The carcasses left behind are food for some birds such as the condors. Other birds mainly feed on insects while others on bats and fish. The bats feed on insects. The insects live along the river because of the water. Water sustains crustaceans which are in turn fed on by fish and some larvae.

Concerns have been raised about the intrusion of human activities in the region and the effect it has on the region. As a precautionary measure, tourists are advised not to feed animals as this will interfere with their natural feeding habits. The region is managed by the Federal government. A number of programs are run in the region to step up preservation measures and save flora and fauna species from extinction. Already some species have been eliminated and the authorities are working hard to educate people on the significance of the ecosystem and taking measures to avoid further losses.

References

Graf, M. (2002). Grand Canyon National Park. New York, NY: Capstone Press.

Nature & Science. (2010). National Park Service. Web.

Newsome, D., Moore, S., & Dowling, R. (2002). Natural area tourism: ecology, impacts, and management. New York, NY: Channel View Publications.

Roos, C., Gibbons, B., & Jones, S. (2008). The Grand Canyon and the American Southwest: Trekking in the Grand Canyon, Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks. New York, NY: Cicerone.

The Grand Canyon National Park Foundation. (2005). River Otter Reintroduction Feasibility Study. The Grand Canyon National Park Foundation. Web.

UNEP. (2009). Grand Canyon National Park, United States. The Encyclopedia of Earth. Web.

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