a tricky moral issue you've raised and you will need to ask a
number of questions and need to be clear in your own mind which
side you are on, then to defend your answer.
Some definitions are probably helpful too. Are they an endangered
species? - Remember extinction is actually a normal process in
the course of evolution.
Why are the habitats being destroyed? - road building, house
construction, land drainage, pollution etc are all causes - what
can be done about these?
Introduced diseases, parasites, and predators against which native
flora and fauna have no defenses have also exterminated or greatly
reduced some species.
To what extent are fungi and lichens part of the food chain and
if they were to disappear, what would the effect be on other
Fungi, which are not green plants because they do not contain
chlorophyll, cannot make their own food and so must rely on other
things. Most fungi feed on the remains of dead plants and animals.
They are decomposers and change dead things into humus which
is rich in nutrients that plants use as food. Soil with plenty
of humus in it grows strong plants. Soil is a habitat for creatures
such as worms and insects - so any disturbance affects them too.
These are a rich supply of food for birds and small animals,
which would disappear. Eventually you get to the top of the food
chain - man -so what then?
The food chain is a very delicate balance and any alteration
can have considerable effect later higher up the food chain.
Think of the build up of toxins, for example.
The build up of toxins in the food chain is an example of biomagnification.
The toxins that become magnified are those that do not readily
break down and are usually retained in fatty tissue. An example
of such a toxin is DDT.
If we think of insects that have been poisoned by DDT and die,
and the bodies end up in, for example, a lake, several things
will happen. The insects sink to the bottom of the lake, where
the DDT is picked up by organisms at the bottom of the food chain.
These might be algae, which will only pick up a minute quantity
of DDT, say 1 nanogram. Next, plankton may eat a thousand of
these algae, which means it now has accumulated 1 microgram of
DDT. A small fish could now eat a thousand of the plankton, which
means it has now accumulated 1 milligram. Larger fish will eat
a number of the smaller fish and in turn will increase the amount
of the DDT in their bodies. Eventually, a bird, such as an osprey,
which is higher up the food chain, will eat a number of fish
and increase the amount of toxin up to a considerable number
of grams. The effects can now be quite devastating, with the
possibility of the toxin weakening eggshells which can result
in chicks being crushed in the nest, and of course, eventually
no more ospreys.
So, the concentration at the end of the food chain can be millions
what it was initially in the environment. What started off as
relatively unharmful can become a killer due to the cumulative
effect of the toxin.
A balance is needed between plants and animals - does this justify
legal protection of fungi and lichens?
A lack of law enforcement might give some people the notion they
can destroy anything in sight.
Legislation also gives publicity and legitimacy to a cause -
many people are probably not aware that such common, everyday
things as fungi are affected by habitat destruction and do not
appreciate the consequences of such a loss.
What about the financial burden of the legislation
to include something in a list of endangered species? What does
this involve? Do the costs outweigh the benefits of protection
of species? Governments always consider finance.
Is there any conflict between large corporations and conservationists?
e.g. The construction provides many jobs - so what's a few fungi
to these people? Are they the ones who need the legislation?
It's not easy, but a very important issue! Don't forget your
It might be best to try to put something of both sides of the
argument - it shows you have thought seriously about the problem.