To some persons, private gardens, public parks, and farms appear to offer a safe way to preserve all of the plants and animals the environment needs. To people who ignore the need for conservation, the idea of paving and pruning and artificially laying out our land from coast to coast seems welcome. Wiser persons perceive that the destruction so imposed on nature would ultimately endanger our existence. The wilderness, with its wealth of animals and plants, holds a treasure from which we already extract the chemicals and genes we need for agricultural breeding, for industrial products, and for healing drugs. What to the layman may look like a disorderly swamp, or a dark forest, or an uninteresting prairie, actually encompasses complicated communities of vegetation and animals of all classes, communities that are held together in a stable balance by their interdependent components. Ecologists are identifying the key principles at work in these ecosystems of wetlands and drylands, forests and prairies. In their search for understanding of how life on our planet functions, they have called attention to the overriding need to preserve and protect the biological diversity that characterizes ecosystems. They have found instances in which short‐sighted human tampering has played havoc with subtle ecological balances. Too frequently entire species have vanished under man's onslaught. Sometimes such a disappearance is an indication that an entire ecosystem is out of balance.
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