On the preservation of species

Chris J. Durden drdn at mail.utexas.edu
Tue Sep 11 14:35:19 EDT 2001

    You are quite correct about the magnitude of our changing of our 
habitats. We are indeed changing our niche. Our offspring that prosper will 
be those who do well in a niche that was not ours. There is a good chance 
that they may turn out to by different from us, perhaps even inhuman! This 
is evolution in progress.
    You may have to drive home on the back roads!
..........Chris Durden

At 12:24 PM 9/11/2001 -0400, you wrote:
>In a similar vein to the post by Mary Beth, I'd like to chew on something
>public ally.  We are expanding as a species, with no particular method to
>our procreation madness.  As we continue to convert large sections of
>habitat into sterile or artificial life zones, I suppose we must be prepared
>to accept the possibility that we'll be displacing whole populations of
>interesting flora and fauna.  So, the point is that there is probably a
>certain amount of species destruction that we have all grown to accept - if
>not vocally, then certainly by our lifestyles.  I would argue, although I
>don't necessarily embrace this position, that as long as the damages are not
>catastrophic (elimination of estuaries, rain forest, etc.) to the
>environment, then this sort of loss is acceptable, and we shouldn't fool
>ourselves into thinking that we should police against it (less government IS
>better, BTW).
>Now, on the other hand it is clear that there will likely be huge and yet to
>be determined side effects of large scale habitat loss.  Who's to say how
>delicately intertwined the whole thing truly is?  Do our planet in fact
>depend on great diversity in order for the system to remain stable?
>Personally, I'd like to see us begin to act proactively, rather than
>reactively.  I'd say it's probably a good thing to ensure that virtually
>every unique habitat is preserved in a large enough section to guarantee
>it's ongoing survival (at least from human consumption and sprawl).  These
>sections of habitat should be networked together, with corridors sufficient
>to allow for movement.  All human interaction should then be master planned
>to occur in pockets of concentrated population.  There's plenty of room for
>all of us, if we just stop insisting on having so much "personal space".
>I fly a lot, and I hike a lot through all sorts of unique habitat.  There's
>amazingly very little of it in many places, and there's no apparent concern
>about preventing it's continuing elimination.  Parks and greenbelts are of
>little value.  Native plants, many of which are considered unsightly, must
>I think of the incredible estuary that was once Southern California.  An
>otherwise desert scrub land inundated with massive water drainages from the
>rather high mountain ranges that surround the coastland.  This massive
>amount of water then collected in huge back bays which provided incredible
>protection for the breeding of large percentages of the birds, fish, and
>land mammals that inhabited the rest of the region.  There were several
>species of butterfly that were quite common then that have been entirely
>eliminated or extirpated since.  Of these, I think of the Coastal Arrowhead
>Blue (Glaucopsyche piasus) that used to enjoy the lowlands - but is now
>apparently long gone.  Since the Arrowhead Blue still flies throughout much
>of montane California, I suppose it's not of great concern to many that the
>bug can no longer be found at sea level.  Also, the loss of this bug is
>probably not significant to the well being of the planet - except by virtue
>of what else was lost in the process.  But there are very few remnants of
>the estuaries that were once Southern California, and many of the native
>plants that thrived here (not to mention the native fauna) are virtually all
>but gone.  Much of this destruction has occurred in my very short lifetime
>(42 years), and I recall very well the extent of countryside that I used to
>traverse when driving from my hometown Long Beach to Silverado Canyon - or
>San Diego (jeez, how much of that is gone now?).
>We should attempt to identify that portion of the planet that we can afford
>to destroy, deal with only that portion for our own inhabitation, and leave
>the rest connected so that it can be allowed to "evolve" (AKA "divine
>perturbation").  Instead, we're flying by the seat of our pants - listing
>and acting concerned until someone asks US to find another place to sit and
>Mark Walker
>lamenting in Houston, wondering how and when I'll get home...
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: mbpi at juno.com [mailto:mbpi at juno.com]
> > Sent: Monday, September 10, 2001 1:42 PM
> > To: LEPS-L at lists.yale.edu
> > Subject: Re: The Shortage of Taxonomists
> >
> >
> > Hi, all...
> >
> > There was an evocative article in the Sunday Chicago Tribune about the
> > lack of young biologists choosing taxonomy as a profession, opting
> > instead to become the more glamorous and lucrative "molecular
> > biologist"
> > which is currently in vogue.
> >
> > This article, along with the fact that the Chicago Field Museum is
> > expanding their collection storage in an effort to preserve
> > the thousands
> > of specimens that are currently being kept in less than "optimum"
> > conditions, got me thinking about what is fast becoming an
> > "antiquated"
> > professional pursuit in the field of Biology.
> >
> > At the risk of starting a "war," when one considers the
> > amount of "space"
> > required for storage of the thousands of collected specimens, and the
> > number of undescribed specimens alone within these collections
> > languishing for "want" of someone to acknowledge and define them, it
> > appears that the current state of taxonomic research is going
> > the way of
> > the dinosaur (!)  This is not to underestimate the numbers of
> > dedicated
> > taxonomists that have greatly contributed their painstaking
> > expertise and
> > research to the overall knowledge and understanding of
> > species diversity
> > and ecosystem dynamics.  I can't tell you how much I've
> > learned from this
> > listserv alone, or the awsome respect I have for the time-consuming
> > research represented by the many individuals on this listserv....
> >
> > But in the context of reality and practicality:  we live in a
> > world that
> > is on "fast forward," with little time to devote to what most people
> > would consider the "minutia" of our intertwined existence.
> > If one were
> > to examine the dynamics of populations of human beings alone,
> > it would be
> > pretty obvious that the dynamics of established populations
> > as recently
> > as 100 years ago, have changed considerably in a relatively
> > short amount
> > of time.  Pockets of former immigrant neighborhoods have been
> > gentrified.
> >  New immigrants from vastly different cultures have established new
> > neighborhoods of their own, replacing the once predominant ethnic
> > population.  If we were something other than Homo sapiens, this change
> > would indicate a "red flag" to the population biologists as a
> > break down
> > in the once "established" ecological dynamics, for better or
> > worse...judged by human standards.
> >
> > Personally, I don't think it's possible to collect and define "every
> > living thing" on the planet earth, nor do I think it's "necessary."
> > Species come and species go, which is not necessarily a bad thing!
> > Certainly there are "indicator" species in the many diverse ecosystems
> > that can tell us which direction their environmental
> > existence is headed.
> >  These are the species that I would focus my research on
> > rather than try
> > to determine all the resident species within a defined
> > ecosystem.  If the
> > indicator specie's relationship to its environment hinges on some
> > undetermined factor...be it some other species of plant or insect or
> > bacteria, then that would be the criteria for determining why the
> > indicator species is doing well or doing poorly...
> >
> > This is not to underestimate the importance of recognizing
> > the presence
> > of "subspecies:"  If several families of Indo-Pakistani, say, were to
> > move into a previously all Euro-descended neighborhood, this would
> > indicate a change in the dynamics of the former community,
> > along with all
> > the cultural differences and requirements that would make this a
> > "distinct group" of individuals within the previously established
> > ecosystem. The introduction of any change within an
> > established ecosystem
> > can also be interpreted as an "indicator" by the transitional
> > effect that
> > subsequently erupts.  The importance of such a transitional effect can
> > only be determined by whether or not it becomes an actual established
> > impact on the prevailing "status quo." (Am I making sense, or am I
> > getting off on a tangent?!)
> >
> > I guess the point I'm trying to make is that it's the predominant
> > "obvious" that asserts itself in the overall hierarchy of population
> > dynamics and is what is most easily grasped by those who
> > don't have the
> > time or inclination to intellectually pursue the intricacies of the
> > minutia.  Somebody has to do the cooking, cleaning and caretaking!!!
> >
> > I'm sorry, but now that I'm out of a job, I've got too much time on my
> > hands to ruminate (!)
> >
> > M.B. Prondzinski
> > Evanston, IL
> > USA
> >
> >
> > ________________________________________________________________
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> >
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