Archive for the ‘Biodiversity’ Category

India was not completely isolated as it moved from Gondwanaland to Asia

January 15, 2017

India – from Gondwanaland to Asia (after Wikipedia)

About 135 million years ago India and Mandagascar broke away from Gondwanaland and started shifting North North East. Around 88 million years ago, India and Madagascar split and the movement of the Indian tectonic plate speeded up. It crashed into Asia from about 30 million years ago to around 10 million years ago (though the movement still continues today). It had been thought that India was biologically isolated from about 71 million years ago until about 30 million years ago when some species hopping occurred from Africa and Asia.

This period was also extraordinarily rich in the evolutionary history of the mammals. It was the time when snakes and ants first appeared. There was a mass extinction event about 66 million years ago. The dinosaurs disappeared and became birds. Birds proliferated and so did large flightless birds. The diversity of mammals exploded, perhaps just because of the space left by the disappearance of the large, unsuccessful dinosaurs. The first pigs and deer developed. The grasses arrived. Carnivorous mammals appeared as their prey increased. The first primates made an entrance. But whatever was evolving on the Indian land-mass was evolving largely in isolation from that taking place in the areas that were to become Africa and Eurasia. But there are tantalising indications that on its journey the Indian land-mass may have been connected for short periods by a land bridge to the Horn of Africa or to what is now Arabia.

However a new paper suggests that some biological movement – perhaps across island chains – was taking place as early as 54 million years ago.

Frauke Stebner, Ryszard Szadziewski, Hukam Singh, Simon Gunkel, Jes Rust. Biting Midges (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) from Cambay Amber Indicate that the Eocene Fauna of the Indian Subcontinent Was Not Isolated. PLOS ONE, 2017; 12 (1): e0169144 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0169144

Bonn University Press Release: 

India gradually drifted away from Africa and Madagascar towards the north and collided with the Eurasian plate. Scientists assumed for a long time that the subcontinent was largely isolated during its long journey through the ocean and unique species of plants and animals were therefore able to develop on it. However, paleontologists at the University of Bonn are now showing using tiny midges encased in amber that there must have been a connection between the apparently cut off India and Europe and Asia around 54 million years ago that enabled the creatures to move around. The surprising results are now presented in the journal PLOS ONE.

India harbours many unique species of flora and fauna that only occur in this form on the subcontinent. The prerequisite for such a unique development of species is that no exchange takes place with other regions. For a long time, scientists assumed that India was isolated in this way due to continental drift. The supercontinent Gondwana, which included South America, Africa, Antarctica, Australia, Madagascar and India, broke up over the course of geological history. What is now India also began moving towards the north east around 130 million years ago. It was common belief among researchers that, before it collided with the Eurasian plate, India was largely isolated for at least 30 million years during its migration.

However, according to current findings by paleontologists at the University of Bonn, the Indian subcontinent may not have been as isolated on its journey as we have thought. “Certain midges that occurred in India at this time display great similarity to examples of a similar age from Europe and Asia,” says lead author Frauke Stebner from the working group of Prof. Jes Rust at the Steinmann Institute at the University of Bonn. These findings are a strong indicator that an exchange did occur between the supposedly isolated India, Europe and Asia.

Mining for amber in the Indian coal seams

The scientist from the University of Bonn mined for amber in seams of coal near the Indian city of Surat. Small midges, among other things, were encased in tree resin 54 million years ago and preserved as fossils. The tiny insects, which are often not even a millimeter large, are “biting midges”. Their descendants can still be found today in Germany in meadows and forests – where the little beasts attack you in swarms and suck your blood.

The paleontologist investigated a total of 38 biting midges encased in amber and compared them with examples of a similar age from Europe and China. Scientists from the University of Gdańsk (Poland) and Lucknow (India) were also involved in this. It has been possible to assign a total of 34 of these insect fossils to genera that are already known. “There was significant conformity with biting midges in amber from the Baltic and Fushun in north-east China,” reports Stebner.

Chains of islands presumably created a link to India

How the insects were able to spread between drifting India and Eurasia has not yet been clarified fully. “Nevertheless, it also seems to have been possible for birds and various groups of mammals to cross the ocean between Europe and India at the time,” the paleontologist refers to studies by other scientists. However, it has now been possible for the first time, with the aid of biting midge fossils, to also demonstrate an exchange between India and Asia in this period.

Stebner assumes that a chain of islands that existed at that time between India, Europe and Asia could have helped the biting midges to spread. As if from stepping stone to stepping stone, the insects could have gradually moved forward along the islands. “Some of the biting midges found in Indian amber were presumably not especially good long-distance flyers,” smiles the paleontologist from the University of Bonn. It was therefore probably not so easy to reach the subcontinent or move from there during the migration of India.

Right click to download: Gedanohelea gerdesorum in 54 million-year-old Cambay amber from India:

Gedanohelea gerdesorum in 54 million-year-old Cambay amber from India: (c) Photo: Working group Prof. Ryszard Szadziewski/University of Gdańsk (Poland)


 

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Raging biodiversity – “One trillion species on earth”

May 3, 2016

A new paper now estimates that there could be up to one trillion species on earth.

Kenneth J. Loceya, and Jay T. Lennona. Scaling laws predict global microbial diversity. PNAS, 2016 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1521291113

It seems logical to me that for any environment there has to be an optimum (perhaps many possible such) number of species for the sustainability of those species. Biodiversity is not always good and the current “wisdom” that increasing biodiversity is always a good thing, is not just flawed – it is plain stupid. Evolution is highly inefficient (though it has been effective) and produces far more species than are necessary for the sustainability of life. Since over 99% of all species that have ever existed are now extinct, it follows that evolution has failed every one of those extinct species; and failed each to the point of destruction. Mass extinctions are merely the way in which the detritus of failed evolution is cleaned out. Currently probably some 30% of all species need to go extinct.

I have never yet heard a satisfactory explanation of why ever-increasing biodiversity, which is so politically correct, is a good thing. “The good of the eco-system” is often quoted – but what on earth is that? Is it better to have a multitude of species or a multitude of individuals in a fewer number of species? Is it better for external forces to change an environment (long, slow geologic processes or short sharp catastrophic events) or for the species within the environment to change it? There is a mindless worship of biodiversity which is not logical.

It seems almost self-evident to me that, for any given environment there must be an optimum number of species, with particular combinations of characteristics, which allow the ecosystem or biosphere to be in a self-sustaining equilibrium (not growing or declining but self-sustaining). This optimum will vary depending upon the characteristics and interactions between the particular species existing and the available space in the prevailing environment. Then, having fewer than the optimum number of species in that environment would mean that all the complex interdependent, interactions between species that seem to be necessary for sustaining each of the participating species would not be fully developed. I say “seem” because it is not certain that all interdependencies are necessarily of benefit to individual species. “It is the entire ecosystem which benefits” I hear some say, but even that is more an assumption than a conclusion.

 

The press release from the University of Indiana

Earth could contain nearly 1 trillion species, with only one-thousandth of 1 percent now identified, according to a study from biologists at Indiana University.

The IU scientists combined microbial, plant and animal community datasets from government, academic and citizen science sources, resulting in the largest compilation of its kind. Altogether, these data represent over 5.6 million microscopic and nonmicroscopic species from 35,000 locations across all the world’s oceans and continents, except Antarctica. ……

….. Microbial species are all forms of life too small to be seen with the naked eye, including all single-celled organisms, such as bacteria and archaea, as well as certain fungi. Many earlier attempts to estimate the number of species on Earth simply ignored microorganisms or were informed by older datasets that were based on biased techniques or questionable extrapolations, Lennon said. ……

……. The study’s results also suggest that actually identifying every microbial species on Earth is an almost unimaginably huge challenge. To put the task in perspective, the Earth Microbiome Project — a global multidisciplinary project to identify microscope organisms — has so far cataloged less than 10 million species.

“Of those cataloged species, only about 10,000 have ever been grown in a lab, and fewer than 100,000 have classified sequences,” Lennon said. “Our results show that this leaves 100,000 times more microorganisms awaiting discovery — and 100 million to be fully explored. Microbial biodiversity, it appears, is greater than ever imagined.”

Abstract

Scaling laws underpin unifying theories of biodiversity and are among the most predictively powerful relationships in biology. However, scaling laws developed for plants and animals often go untested or fail to hold for microorganisms. As a result, it is unclear whether scaling laws of biodiversity will span evolutionarily distant domains of life that encompass all modes of metabolism and scales of abundance. Using a global-scale compilation of ∼35,000 sites and ∼5.6⋅106 species, including the largest ever inventory of high-throughput molecular data and one of the largest compilations of plant and animal community data, we show similar rates of scaling in commonness and rarity across microorganisms and macroscopic plants and animals. We document a universal dominance scaling law that holds across 30 orders of magnitude, an unprecedented expanse that predicts the abundance of dominant ocean bacteria. In combining this scaling law with the lognormal model of biodiversity, we predict that Earth is home to upward of 1 trillion (1012) microbial species. Microbial biodiversity seems greater than ever anticipated yet predictable from the smallest to the largest microbiome.


Related:

ktwop on biodiversity

The fossil record shows that biodiversity in the world has been increasing dramatically for 200 million years and is likely to continue. The two mass extinctions in that period (at 201 million and 66 million years ago) slowed the trend only temporarily. Genera are the next taxonomic level up from species and are easier to detect in fossils. The Phanerozoic is the 540-million-year period in which animal life has proliferated. Chart created by and courtesy of University of Chicago paleontologists J. John Sepkoski, Jr. and David M. Raup.

The fossil record shows that biodiversity in the world has been increasing dramatically for 200 million years and is likely to continue. The two mass extinctions in that period (at 201 million and 66 million years ago) slowed the trend only temporarily. Genera are the next taxonomic level up from species and are easier to detect in fossils. The Phanerozoic is the 540-million-year period in which animal life has proliferated. Chart created by and courtesy of University of Chicago paleontologists J. John Sepkoski, Jr. and David M. Raup.


 

There was no biodiversity to begin with

September 15, 2015

I was listening to some conservationists on the radio discussing the rate of loss of species and how this was a catastrophe in the making for biodiversity. It was an unsatisfactory talk mainly because they all made what I thought were quite unjustified assumptions. It was more about political advocacy rather than any attempt to argue based on evidence.

The “politically correct” view is that biodiversity (measured as the number of species in existence) is a “good thing” and that more species is “good” and fewer species is “bad”. Saving endangered species is also a “good” thing. That species are becoming extinct at an alarming rate means catastrophically that a 6th mass extinction is nigh. But I find this viewpoint lacking in substance. We have more species existing today than ever before. Probably too many. Mass extinctions have helped “clean out” the rubbish that evolution throws up. Extinction rates may be high but that is hardly surprising when the number of species is so high. A 6th mass extinction may, in fact, be necessary. More species and more biodiversity is not always a good thing.

The fossil record shows that biodiversity in the world has been increasing dramatically for 200 million years and is likely to continue. The two mass extinctions in that period (at 201 million and 66 million years ago) slowed the trend only temporarily. Genera are the next taxonomic level up from species and are easier to detect in fossils. The Phanerozoic is the 540-million-year period in which animal life has proliferated. Chart created by and courtesy of University of Chicago paleontologists J. John Sepkoski, Jr. and David M. Raup.

The fossil record shows that biodiversity in the world has been increasing dramatically for 200 million years and is likely to continue. The two mass extinctions in that period (at 201 million and 66 million years ago) slowed the trend only temporarily. Genera are the next taxonomic level up from species and are easier to detect in fossils. The Phanerozoic is the 540-million-year period in which animal life has proliferated. Chart created by and courtesy of University of Chicago paleontologists J. John Sepkoski, Jr. and David M. Raup.

An endangered species is one whose population is low and dangerously in decline. If numbers of individuals of a species are that low, then that species has already become irrelevant in its contribution to the functioning of the biosphere. It may well be a matter of regret, just as there is always regret when a language becomes extinct from disuse. But apart from providing entertainment value for humans, the saving of a few members of a doomed species provides no real benefit for the functioning of the biosphere. I would be very sorry to see tigers becoming extinct, but the reality is that their numbers are so low that they play no significant part in the sustenance of the biosphere. The role of a predator species is primarily to control the population of its prey. From a biodiversity point of view they are already irrelevant. Saving the tiger has nothing to do with maintaining a healthy biodiversity and everything to do with human entertainment (including that of the conservationists) and “feeling good”.

(I am of the opinion that helping an endangered species to survive can be desirable but then “conservation” should be based on helping that species to adapt genetically rather than to freeze it into an artificial habitat – zoos and reserves – to which it is not suited).

At one time there was just a single species that all life derives from – perhaps even just one living cell. (And even for creationists, all the diversity of humankind has derived from a single mating pair – and the raging incest that that implies). There was no biodiversity to begin with. Genetic variation with each generation and genetic mutations then caused new species to come into being, first to fill up the spaces that the prevailing environment allowed and then to adapt to changing environments. If each generation of the first species had bred true there would, of course, be no biodiversity. Genetic variation and empty space in the environment led to growth of species. Overcrowding of a given space or drastic environment change cause the decline and extinction of species. The prevailing level of “biodiversity” at any time is not then some target to be achieved, but just the current balance between the birth and death of species.

It seems almost self-evident to me that, for any given environment there must be an optimum number of species, with particular combinations of characteristics, which allow the ecosystem or biosphere to be in a self-sustaining equilibrium (not growing or declining but self-sustaining). This optimum will vary depending upon the characteristics and interactions between the particular species existing and the available space in the prevailing environment. Then, having fewer than the optimum number of species in that environment would mean that all the complex interdependent, interactions between species that seem to be necessary for sustaining each of the participating species would not be fully developed. I say “seem” because it is not certain that all interdependencies are necessarily of benefit to individual species. “It is the entire ecosystem which benefits” I hear some say, but even that is more an assumption than a conclusion.

But what would happen in such a situation?  If the interactions are truly necessary, then some of these sub-optimal number of species should logically be on the way to stagnation or to extinction. But it is not certain that some new equilibrium will not be reached. One species too few for a given environmental space will only lead to the space being occupied by an existing or a new species. One species too many for a given space will lead to the extinction of a redundant species or of a number of species existing under genetic stress, until genetic variation reduced the stress. The interactions between species in any environment are not planned in advance. They are just those that happen to prevail and survive because they succeed in the environmental space available. Too few species will give an increase of species until overcrowding reduces the number of species. A rapid change of environment and a reduction of the space available must give a decrease in the number of species making up the optimum for a self-sustaining biosphere.

Generally species of plant life have increased in the wake of human habitations.

For example, more than 4,000 plant species introduced into North America during the past 400 years grow naturally here and now constitute nearly 20 percent of the continent’s vascular plant biodiversity.

But then we try to eradicate “invasive” species even though that represents a decrease in biodiversity. Clearly some biodiversity “is not good”. We hunt down successful species as pests when they reach and thrive in new or empty environmental spaces. We protect and support unsuccessful (failed) species in the name of conservation and biodiversity. We have no qualms in trying to eradicate insects, microbes and bacteria which cause human disease even if biodiversity is consequently reduced. From the perspective of the biodiversity of the genetic pool, losing a species of some unknown bacteria may be just as significant as the extinction of the elephant.

The rate of growth of the human species has meant that other species have not been able to adapt fast enough – genetically – to their loss of habitat or the increase of competition. The environmental space available to them has drastically reduced. But that is reality. Creating artificially unsustainable habitats will not change that. The optimum level of biodiversity for the environmental space today is different to that of 100 years ago. Biodiversity cannot be considered independently of the environmental space available. Conservationism which seeks to maintain the wrong level of biodiversity for the available space seems to me to be both futile and stupid. Especially when conservationism has no idea what the “optimum” level of biodiversity is and whether the current level lies above or below the optimum level.

 

Earth has too many failed species and 30% need to go extinct

May 1, 2015

There is a biodiversity myth that “more species” is better than “fewer species”. Even when the species are failed or useless species. The myth counts the 5 mass extinctions of the past as “bad events”, even though many current species (including humans) could not have evolved without the mass extinctions creating the space for new species. Every mass extinction has provided a cleansing (though not always effective) process for removing the failures of evolution.

The alarmist brigade are publicising a paper which claims that 1 in 6 species will go extinct due to global warming. (I note that the paper refers to global warming but all the publicity quotes “climate change”. What if the climate change was a global cooling?) The paper published in Science is a nonsense speculation and the abstract begins “Current predictions of extinction risks from climate change vary widely depending on the specific assumptions and geographic and taxonomic focus of each study.” He then goes on to selectively review the literature and chooses just those papers which support his conclusion. The author, Mark Urban, really has no value to add to anything about the climate and has just used the most “politically correct” opinion which ensures his funding and his publication. He uses “politically correct” assumptions to come to – surprise, surprise! – “politically correct” conclusions. He is a biologist but his “suggestions” about species and species extinction are equally valueless. He concludes that if global temperatures rises by 4ºC then up to 1 in 6 existing species will go extinct.

There are two things wrong with this example of bad science:

  1. Both the magnitude of global warming and the effect of warming are assumed (by the author and the papers he chooses to cite). The argument is circular.
  2. He assumes that the extinction of 1 in 6 species is a “bad thing”, even though there are more species now than ever before.

The sheer number of species in existence today is an indicator of how inefficient the process of evolution is. There are more failed species struggling along today and which need to go extinct, than ever before. It is my thesis that there is an optimum number of interconnected species to suit any given conditions. Evolution does not go for the optimum and because of the ineffectiveness of the process produces a great deal of “rubbish”. It is my contention that the Earth desperately needs another mass extinction to clean out the accumulated and accumulating muck of the “rubbish” of failed species.

Evolution fails in over 99% of its attempts to create species that can survive. The 1%  of species that do and have survived may seem to be perfectly tailored for the prevailing conditions but that is putting the cart before the horse. Evolution has no direction and does not seek excellence. It only throws up a plethora of species where just 1% of those species happen to suit the prevailing conditions.

The “conservation” movement and its blind worship of “biodiversity” borders on the stupid. Failed and useless species are given as much weight (sometimes more weight) than successful and useful species. Failing species are protected and successful species are persecuted. Useful species are hunted and useless species are coddled.

The fossil record shows that biodiversity in the world has been increasing dramatically for 200 million years and is likely to continue. The two mass extinctions in that period (at 201 million and 66 million years ago) slowed the trend only temporarily. Genera are the next taxonomic level up from species and are easier to detect in fossils. The Phanerozoic is the 540-million-year period in which animal life has proliferated. Chart created by and courtesy of University of Chicago paleontologists J. John Sepkoski, Jr. and David M. Raup.

The 3rd and 5th mass extinctions probably reduced the then existing number of species by about 50%. More than 30% of the species alive today (plant and animal) could be considered failed species – where a “failed species” is one which cannot cope with current change, or provides no benefit to any other species, or is in an evolutionary cul-de-sac. These species need to be allowed to go extinct or – when they are harmful to human or other life – to be terminated.

Mass extinctions correct for evolution’s greater than 99% failure rate

April 23, 2015

There are said to have been 5 great mass extinctions in the last 540 million years (the Phanerozoic) and a new paper claims  – without carrying much conviction – that it was really six (with two being very close together). The Alarmists claim that humans are causing a new great mass extinction (the 6th or the 7th) and that this threatens a catastrophic collapse of biodiversity. This contradicts the fact that there are more species alive today than ever before. Moreover, why this high level of biodiversity is necessary or a “good thing” remains a mystery.

The mass extinctions of the past are generally put down to various external events which provided a sharp shock to the environment in which highly stressed species existed. Nearby supernovas, asteroid impacts, sudden tectonic plate shifts, glaciation, and super-dooper-volcanic eruptions are among the “shocks” suggested.

But I would argue instead that mass extinctions are necessary and unavoidable. They are necessitated by the ineffectiveness of the process of evolution itself. They provide the self-correction necessary to cope with the mass of “rubbish” species created by the hit-and-miss process of evolution. The external shock is only incidental and acts as the trigger for the extinction of the highly-stressed “rubbish” species. None of the historical mass extinctions ever posed any threat to the continuation of life. Instead they have served to muck out the dung from the evolutionary stables.

The fossil record shows that biodiversity in the world has been increasing dramatically for 200 million years and is likely to continue. The two mass extinctions in that period (at 201 million and 66 million years ago) slowed the trend only temporarily. Genera are the next taxonomic level up from species and are easier to detect in fossils. The Phanerozoic is the 540-million-year period in which animal life has proliferated. Chart created by and courtesy of University of Chicago paleontologists J. John Sepkoski, Jr. and David M. Raup.

The fossil record shows that biodiversity in the world has been increasing dramatically for 200 million years and is likely to continue. The two mass extinctions in that period (at 201 million and 66 million years ago) slowed the trend only temporarily. Genera are the next taxonomic level up from species and are easier to detect in fossils. The Phanerozoic is the 540-million-year period in which animal life has proliferated. Chart created by and courtesy of University of Chicago paleontologists J. John Sepkoski, Jr. and David M. Raup.

The clue lies here:

Wikipedia: Although there are 10–14 million species of life currently on the Earth, more than 99 percent of all species that ever lived on the planet are estimated to be extinct.

Evolution fails in over 99% of its attempts to create species that can survive. The 1%  of species that do and have survived may seem to be perfectly tailored for the prevailing conditions but that is putting the cart before the horse. Evolution has no direction and does not seek excellence. It only throws up a plethora of species where just 1% of those species happen to suit the prevailing conditions. One round peg out of a 100 different shapes may happen to fit a round hole but the round peg itself was not designed to fit – it happened to be the only one of many which did. For every species which is just good enough to survive, evolution gives another 99 which are not. As a process it is a remarkably ineffective one. Humans are not the result of “intelligent design”. They are just the 1% of all the species created by evolution which happened to fit the round hole of the prevailing environment.

Stewart Brand writes in Aeon that “the idea that we are edging up to a mass extinction is not just wrong – it’s a recipe for panic and paralysis”

Aeon: Many now assume that we are in the midst of a human-caused ‘Sixth Mass Extinction’ to rival the one that killed off the dinosaurs 66 million years ago. But we’re not. The five historic mass extinctions eliminated 70 per cent or more of all species in a relatively short time. That is not going on now. ‘If all currently threatened species were to go extinct in a few centuries and that rate continued,’ began a recent Nature magazine introduction to a survey of wildlife losses, ‘the sixth mass extinction could come in a couple of centuries or a few millennia.’

The range of dates in that statement reflects profound uncertainty about the current rate of extinction. Estimates vary a hundred-fold – from 0.01 per cent to 1 per cent of species being lost per decade. The phrase ‘all currently threatened species’ comes from the indispensable IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), which maintains the Red List of endangered species. Its most recent report shows that of the 1.5 million identified species, and 76,199 studied by IUCN scientists, some 23,214 are deemed threatened with extinction. So, if all of those went extinct in the next few centuries, and the rate of extinction that killed them kept right on for hundreds or thousands of years more, then we might be at the beginning of a human-caused Sixth Mass Extinction.

Worrying about whether the 6th mass extinction has started or not is moot. A 6th mass extinction is needed.

A failure rate of 99% creates a terrible lot of dross. Over time, all the “rubbish” species produced by evolution accumulate and clutter the available environment. They restrict the space available for more suitable (worthy) species. The analogy with my desk fits perfectly. Only one of every hundred pieces of paper needs to be kept. Every once in a while – usually triggered by the shock of having to make my tax declaration – I clear out the rubbish. Mass extinctions are then due to the accumulation of too many “rubbish” species which are highly stressed – because they are not quite good enough to survive – and then which end up being susceptible to any external shock which tips them over into the dustbin of extinction – where they belong. It is mass extinctions which provides room for the “good enough” species to grow and even thrive. Mass extinctions provide the clean-up mechanism for a very sloppy and inefficient evolution process. A rather drastic clean-up method perhaps but no more drastic than diverting the Alpheus and Peneus rivers to muck out the Augean stables!

If it is in fact true that we have more species alive today than ever before then the number of “rubbish” species around is also probably at an all-time high. A new, 6th, mass extinction is probably necessary to clean up the mess. It is clearly overdue.

And that is really the problem with the alarmist conservationists who are wasting resources in trying to protect some of the “rubbish” species which are merely examples of the failures of evolution and which deserve to be consigned to the dustbin of extinction. Species which do not adapt to the dominating presence of humans are among the “rubbish”. It may be regrettable that tigers and elephants are on the “rubbish” list but the reality is that they are failed species unable to cope with their environments and which are now restricting the dominant species. It only emphasises that true conservation would not try to freeze these species into failed patterns but to genetically adapt them to be neo-tigers or neo-elephants which would no longer just be “rubbish”.

In defence of the Quagga mussel

October 13, 2014

Quagga Mussel from Lake Michigan – image lakescientist.com

Here we go again! Yet another successful species is being demonised and attacked and oppressed just because it is successful.

A species of freshwater mussel – the Quagga Mussel – is being targeted by so-called conservationists in Europe and the US as an “invasive” or “alien” species. Just because it is successful. Just because it has made the hazardous journey from its origins across hostile environments inhabited by unfriendly humans to establish itself in fresh-water bodies in the Great Lakes and now across Europe and the UK.

It originates in the drainage of the River Dnieper in Ukraine into the Black Sea. It lives only in freshwater and can tolerate brackish water but is killed by the salt in the sea water. It is edible for humans but overeating can lead to the concentration of some toxins. But somehow it has managed to get across the Atlantic to the Great Lakes and to many canals and rivers in Europe. Now it has been found in the UK. Fresh water species from the ponto-Caspian region (from the Black, Caspian, and Azov seas) have been observed to be spreading westwards for many years.

R Dnieper – map KidsBrittanica

A new paper has chosen a suitably alarmist title to get massive coverage today from the UK newspapers and radio.

Gallardo and Aldridge, Is Great Britain heading for a Ponto–Caspian invasional meltdown?, Journal of Applied Ecology  10/2014; DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.12348

The choice of alarmist vocabulary is itself off-putting. It suggests that the research is so unsound that it needs to be propped up by the language of the scandal-sheets!

“Alien”, “invasive”, “meltdown”, “catastrophic” are some of the words chosen. And not just mussels. They are accompanied by predatory, omnivorous, “killer shrimps”.

The GuardianAlien Quagga mussel may already have been joined by other invasive species

Scientists warn that the destructive mussel recently spotted in the UK, has probably been joined by additional undetected invaders, such as shrimp, that pose a threat to native wildlife.

A foreign mussel recently found for the first time in the UK is likely to have already been joined undetected by at least four other alien species that threaten native shrimp and fish, scientists warn on Monday.

The Quagga mussel (Dreissena rostriformis bugensis), which was found in the river Wraysbury on 1 October and can cover boat hulls and smother native mussels to death, is just one of a group of freshwater species that has been spreading westward from the Ponto-Caspian region in south-east Europe in recent years and which risk causing a “meltdown” as they invade Britain.

The south-east of England is most at risk from these invaders which can prey on native British freshwater species, substantially alter the ecology of waterways and wreak economic damage by blocking water pipes, according to a new study by a University of Cambridge team. …..

.. The study warns that the first wave of invaders, including the Quagga, are likely to act as a beachhead for further invaders from the Ponto-Caspian region, aiding their establishment. “Because there are so many of these organisms that have had a long evolutionary time to develop a cosy relationship with each other, what we’re finding is when they get over here they tend to facilitate each other,” said Aldridge.

Quagga mussels reached the Great Lakes some time ago

LakeScientist:

An increase in water clarity in Lake Michigan is actually cause for concern. The heightened clarity is due to quagga mussels, an invasive species. Gary Fahnsteil, a senior ecologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Great Lakes field station in Muskegon, Mich., was a part of a group of scientists who measured Lake Michigan’s water quality.

Clear water is usually a welcome phenomenon; however, the 950 trillion quagga mussels are making Lake Michigan too clear to support aquatic life, especially for salmon and the other fish they consume. Fahnsteil and others consider quagga mussels to be the most detrimental of the 186 invasive species that occupy the Great Lakes. The mussels’ eating behavior wreaks havoc on the aquatic food chain at every level. In 2000, Great Lakes researchers discovered a phenomenon they called the doughnut in the desert,” a massive, ring-shaped bloom of aquatic plants that helps sustain aquatic animals that stay in the lakes during the winter. The bloom appears in March and April.

However, they also discovered that quagga mussels have taken a big bite out of the “doughnut.” As a result, the animals that rely on it face starvation in the winter. Furthermore, the fish that feed off of those species could starve as well.

Well with the entire scientific and alarmist bastions against them it doesn’t look good for the Quagga mussel. They are now one of the oppressed species. But I am rooting for them. Having traveled from Ukraine across oceans of hostile salt water, they deserve to enjoy all their successes.

 

Baka people suffer abuse by WWF in the name of conservation

October 6, 2014

The WWF is not my favourite organisation. They have become eco-fascists and have lost sight of what conservation is all about (as have many environmentalists who blindly follow a vision of an authoritarian society where they know what is best for everybody else).

Now comes this accusation from Survival International

Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights, has uncovered serious abuses of Baka “Pygmies” in southeast Cameroon, at the hands of anti-poaching squads supported and funded by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

The Baka are being illegally forced from their ancestral homelands in the name of “conservation” because much of their land has been turned into “protected areas” – including safari-hunting zones.

Rather than target the powerful individuals behind organized poaching, wildlife officers and soldiers pursue Baka who hunt only to feed their families.

The Baka and their neighbors accused of “poaching” face arrest, beatings and torture. Many Baka claim that friends and relatives have died as a result of the beatings.

Cameroon’s Ministry of Forests and Fauna, which employs the wildlife officers, is funded by WWF. WWF also provides officers with technical, logistical and material assistance. Without this support the anti-poaching squads could not function.

UN standards require WWF to prevent or mitigate “adverse human rights impacts directly linked to its operations” even if it has not contributed to them, but the giant of the conservation industry appears reluctant to acknowledge this. Despite the evidence that the anti-poaching squads have grossly abused the rights of the Baka, WWF continues to provide its crucial support.

I am not surprised.

 

Another duck species being exterminated for being successful

August 8, 2014

The inconsistencies in the “conservation” movement and the meaningless defence of “biodiversity” have never been so apparent as in this case where the UK is wiping out all the females of a duck species just because the males are too successful.

Once again an inadequate and failing species is being “protected” by exterminating a successful one for no other reason than that it is successful. The nonsense spouted in the name of “conservationism” is amusing but always expensive and without any real benefit.

The Guardian:

It is American, oversexed and over here, but the days of the ruddy duck in the UK are finally numbered, with the latest culling data revealing that just 10 females remain.

The shooting of the final few – at about £3,000 a bird – will mark the end of half a century of occupation by the species. At their peak, their numbers reached 6,500 but their breeding prowess threatened the native European white-headed duck. 

The invasion began in 1948 when the famed conservationist Sir Peter Scott’s love for ducks led him to import three pairs of the colourful US birds to his Slimbridge reserve in Gloucestershire. But their escape and consequent flourishing in the British countryside led to an anguished debate among ornithologists decades later, as well as a nationwide cull that has cost more than £5m. …… 

Apart from their success in the duck world they don’t seem to pose any particular threat to humans

The problem is that the “sexy” males ruddy ducks (Oxyura jamaicensis) are preferred by female white-headed ducks. The resulting hybrid offspring threatened the survival of the white-headed duck, which was already struggling with habitat loss due to development. “Ruddy duck males are particularly aggressive when it comes to breeding and court females more vigorously,” said Madge. “That makes them more attractive to female white-headed ducks.”

The UK ruddy ducks also spread their wings across Europe, into France, Belgium, the Netherlands and into Spain. The discovery of hybrids in the latter country in the 1990s showed the ducks had grown into a continent-wide threat and that sealed their fate. The following year, an eradication programme began in the UK and a marksmen who has been part of the cull since then told the Guardian the birds fulfil the idea of a sitting duck.

Clearly gender equality is not something for ducks when the females are culled for the “sins” of the males. If ruddy duck males are preferred by the female white-headed ducks (and they have no problem in breeding together) why are these “conservationists” not allowing natural selection to take its course?

If male conservationists were preferred by normal females then perhaps the solution is to eradicate all female conservationists?

Related: Too much biodiversity – time to let some species die out

Too much biodiversity – time to let some species die out

July 28, 2014

Conservationists would have us believe that the earth is losing species at an alarming rate and that evil humanity is to blame and therefore more and more species must be protected by “freezing” them into an unnatural existence. Alarmist “conservationism” has led to the ridiculous situation where successful species are termed pests and are eradicated. Hopelessly unfit species – if they are cuddly or otherwise attractive to watch – are protected by being sentenced to a “frozen” existence in zoos or in “protected” and totally unnatural and anachronistic habitats.

I was just watching a program about the highly successful urban coyotes of N. America. They have found a new prey in domestic pets and are thriving. But having adapted successfully to the changing environment they have – needless to say – earned  the status of being declared a pest to be wiped out!!

And yet there have never been more species alive than there are today.

A new review paper warns with great alarm about another impending mass extinction due to the loss of fauna that man has caused. The press release for this paper (why do scientific papers need press releases?) begins thus:

Stanford biologist warns of early stages of Earth’s 6th mass extinction event

The planet’s current biodiversity, the product of 3.5 billion years of evolutionary trial and error, is the highest in the history of life. But it may be reaching a tipping point.

In a new review of scientific literature and analysis of data published in Science, an international team of scientists cautions that the loss and decline of animals is contributing to what appears to be the early days of the planet’s sixth mass biological extinction event.

If biodiversity “is the highest in the history of life” and many species are incapable of adapting to the world they live in, perhaps it is time for them to exit gracefully.

Perhaps the progress of humankind requires that some of these obsolete species must be allowed to disappear.

The dangers of reducing biodiversity are being hyped to a ridiculous extent. Without the mass extinctions of the past, most of the species living today would never have evolved. If the dinosaurs had not gone extinct we would not be around. And the disappearance of the dodo has not increased any threat to humanity.

Related:

Fighting against species extinction is to deny evolution

Genetic adaptation – not stagnating conservation – is the way to help threatened species

Polar bears neither threatened nor endangered

June 10, 2014

It has become increasingly clear that polar bear numbers have been grossly (and probably intentionally) underestimated and that reality is beginning to displace the alarmist myth of the species being under threat. Canada has declined to classify the polar bears as being “threatened or endangered”.

This has not pleased the environmental priesthood  at all. The Center for Biological Diversity has lobbied heavily in the US against the Canadian decision not to toe the politically correct lineThey appealed to an international NAFTA environmental panel to “investigate”  Canada’s failure to implement NAFTA rules by failing to classify the thriving polar bears as “threatened and endangered”.

This appeal has been rejected.

Polar bears remain unthreatened and unendangered in Canada.

An international trade panel has decided not to review whether Canada is enforcing its own environmental legislation to protect its polar bear population.

photo Geoff York/Reuters

cbcnews:

An international trade panel has decided not to review whether Canada is enforcing its own environmental legislation to protect its polar bear population.

The Commission for Environmental Co-operation voted 2-1 to reject a request for an investigation into why Canada has chosen not to designate the bears as threatened or endangered. A U.S. environmental group had filed a submission claiming that decision leaves the bears without protection, despite the ongoing loss of their sea-ice habitat and resulting projections of declining numbers.

Related:

Activists pressure tactics to force Canada to list polar bears as ‘threatened’ have failed June 7th, 2014

Canada under international pressure to list polar bears as threatened, so far holds out January 27, 2013

Canada again under international pressure to list polar bears as threatened November 24, 2013


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