As the world becomes more connected, the potential for harnessing technology to protect vulnerable natural ecosystems grows. This article discusses how IoT can help save some of today's most vulnerable ecosystems.
The world is home to many different ecosystems, each hosting unique flora and fauna. Unfortunately, human activity has put many of these ecosystems at risk. Climate change, pollution, and habitat destruction are just some of the ways humans have endangered natural ecosystems.
Thankfully, modern technology presents much-needed hope for these fragile environments. The Internet of Things, for example, has immense potential to address the many threats these ecosystems face and secure their future.
Read on for five of the most vulnerable natural ecosystems in the world today and how IoT can help protect them.
1. The Amazon Rainforest
The Amazon rainforest is the largest tropical forest in the world, spanning Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, and Venezuela. In addition to hosting 10%
of the world's known biodiversity, the Amazon also plays a vital role in global climate stability. Moreover, the Amazon River accounts for at least 15% of Earth's total river discharge into oceans.
The Amazon rainforest is under threat from both legal and illegal logging and from fires set by farmers to clear land for cattle ranching. Between August 2020 and July 2021, Brazil lost 8,224 square miles of forest
as deforestation hit a 15-year high.
The internet of things can help protect the Amazon rainforest by tracking deforestation rates and sending alerts to authorities when illegal logging is detected. IoT can also help monitor and manage fires by detecting them early and alerting firefighters. Furthermore, IoT solutions can track and protect endangered species in the Amazon, bolstering the enforcement of protection laws.
2. The Alpide Belt
The Alpide belt is a continuous seismic and orogenic belt that stretches more than 9,300 miles from Java in Indonesia, through the Indochinese Peninsula, the Himalayas, the mountains of Iran, the Caucasus, and Anatolia, ending at the Moroccan edge of the Atlantic. The natural belt is home to some of the planet's most renowned mountain ranges, including the Alps, Atlas, Hindu Kush, Karakoram, and the Himalayas.
The Alpide belt is under threat from several human activities, including mining, quarrying, deforestation, and urbanization. Global warming is also shrinking permafrost and glaciers, resulting in dramatic changes to mountainous ecosystems. Meanwhile, iconic animals like the tiger, snow leopard, and Asiatic black bear are facing extinction, thanks to diminishing habitats, poaching, and human-wildlife conflict.
IoT can help protect the Alpide belt by monitoring environmental conditions whose changes could impact the ecosystem. For example, using IoT sensors to monitor air quality, water quality, and soil moisture levels can help authorities identify and address pollution issues. IoT can also aid in tracking the movements of animals and help conservationists protect them from habitat loss and human activities.
3. The African Savanna
The African Savanna is Earth's most extensive tropical grassland, covering five million square miles
across Sub-Saharan Africa. It is home to a massive number of animals, including large mammals like lions, elephants, zebras, and antelopes.
The African Savanna faces serious danger from threats like poaching, deforestation, and drought. In Kenya, for example, high poaching rates and the loss of wild Savanna land to agriculture have resulted in a 68% decline
of wildlife numbers since 1977.
IoT can help protect the African Savanna by providing real-time data on environmental conditions, allowing authorities to manage and conserve resources. For example, IoT sensors can monitor water levels, soil moisture, and rainfall. This data can help optimize irrigation systems and help farmers make the best use of the land they have, rather than encroaching on protected wild environments.
For animal conservation, IoT solutions can enable environmentalists to track herds, map migration patterns, and prioritize the most impactful areas for reclamation and protection. Embedded IoT devices can also monitor herd health and send alerts to rangers when animals are in distress. Additionally, strategically placed sensors can help detect unusual sounds and movements in the park and deliver timely poacher alerts to rangers.
4. The Arctic Tundra
The Arctic tundra is a vast and remote biome located in the northernmost parts of North America, Europe, and Asia. The tundra is characterized by treeless landscapes, permafrost soils, and extreme conditions like cold temperatures, strong winds, and limited sunlight.
Despite its inhospitable environment, the Arctic tundra is home to a wide variety of fauna, including caribou, reindeer, muskoxen, wolves, and polar bears. It is also an important stopover for migratory birds like the Arctic tern, which flies from the Arctic to the Antarctic every year. Most significantly, the Arctic tundra is a critical regulator of the planet's temperature, helping cool the Earth by reflecting the sun's heat into space.
The Arctic tundra is threatened by climate change and human activities like oil and gas drilling, mining, and tourism. As global temperatures rise, the permafrost that forms the foundation of the tundra is thawing, resulting in drastic changes to the landscape. Moreover, industrial activities pollute the air and water while also disturbing delicate ecosystems.
The Internet of Things can help protect the Arctic tundra in several notable ways. For starters, IoT sensors can monitor environmental conditions, like air temperature, wind speed, and humidity. This data can help improve understanding of how climate change impacts the tundra and develop strategies for mitigating its effects.
IoT can also help us better manage industrial activities in the tundra. For example, sensor data can be used to optimize energy use in drilling and mining operations, preventing the release of excess pollutants into the environment. Additionally, by tracking people and vehicle movements, IoT can help authorities reduce the number of accidents and unintentional damage to sensitive ecosystems.
5. The Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest coral reef system, stretching over 1,429 miles along Australia's eastern coast. The Reef forms the basis of a vast range of marine life, including whales, dolphins, sharks, and turtles. It also provides substantial economic benefits to the Australian economy, generating over $5 billion
from tourism and fishing each year.
The Great Barrier Reef is under significant threat from climate change, ocean acidification, and coral bleaching. As global temperatures rise, the water becomes warmer and more acidic. This combination makes it difficult for corals to grow and build their skeletons, leading to coral bleaching and mass die-offs.
IoT can help protect the Great Barrier Reef by facilitating data collection to understand and predict the impacts of climate change on the corals. For example, by monitoring water temperature and acidity levels, scientists can develop early warning systems for coral bleaching events and mount more effective responses.
IoT solutions can also aid in managing human activities in and around the Reef. For instance, connected devices can track the movements of boats and swimmers, preventing accidents and minimizing the impact of human activity on the ecosystem. Furthermore, IoT devices can help monitor tourist numbers and regulate visitation levels to avert overcrowding.
IoT Developers Can Make Real Contributions to Conservation
As the global population continues to grow and the demand for natural resources increases, it is becoming increasingly important to find innovative ways to protect our planet's most vulnerable ecosystems. Fortunately, the Internet of Things offers a range of solutions to help the world meet this challenge.
If you are an IoT developer interested in conservation, you have plenty of opportunities to make a difference where it matters. Whether making IoT sensors or developing data management platforms, many individuals and organizations working to protect natural ecosystems are waiting to put your solution to good use.