Critical to Maintain BioDiversity in a Changing Climate

November 29, 2017

Michigan Radio:

“Since about 1990 there has been this hypothesis in the field of ecological sciences that the modern rates of species extinction, which are about 1000 times faster than normal, is going to affect the productivity of the ecosystems,” Cardinale said.

This hypothesis spawned hundreds of studies, but, while 90% of the studies supported the hypothesis, they were all on a small scale and skeptics doubted the results would hold up outside of small samples in the lab.

Cardinale’s study changed that by synthesizing data from 600,000 locations in the real world. Cardinale called it “the true test of whether biodiversity actually matters.”

On the results of this study

“We found that biodiversity matters, and it matters a whole lot more than we had expected,” Cardinale said.

“We found that biodiversity is important for sustaining humanity. One of the key points of this study is that biodiversity seems to control the production of biomass in most of the world’s ecosystems.”

Cardinale said that biodiversity seems to be more impactful on biomass, or “living tissue,” production than any other factor, including carbon dioxide, nutrients, and temperature.

Biodiversity not only contributes to the amount of natural resources we have available and the quality of our air, but it also seems to work as natural disaster prevention. Organic biodiversity can help protect against things like hurricane flooding and climate change. Cardinale called it an “insurance policy.”

“So, if biodiversity, and our loss of biodiversity, affects the production of biomass, it’s going to affect people’s ability to live,” Cardinale said.

On the planet’s future

“We know biodiversity is important, but we don’t have enough time, we don’t have enough people, and we do not have enough money to save everything,” Cardinale said. “Some things are going to go extinct and the estimate is that within our lifetime, by the time I die, around 30% of everything on this planet will be extinct.”

Cardinale said his next job is going to be figuring out how to distribute the resources he does have to identify and save key species.

“We need to start protecting that biological infrastructure in the same way we protect our physical infrastructure,” he said.


Yale Climate Connections:

WHITE STONE, VA. – The first sign of an imminent gathering of large numbers of monarch butterflies came from the kitchen window, overlooking the purple Miss Bessie aster plants (Symphyotrichum praealtum) in the side yard.

It was approaching Halloween, and for about the next week, those asters, held upright along a fence line, were ablaze with scores of monarchs at a time – 40s, 60s, and more, all at once and nectaring, usually in mid- to late-sunny day afternoons.

Timing more notable than numbers

But it wasn’t the sheer numbers that was most notable. It was instead the timing of their arrival along the tidewater area of Virginia, the area north of Virginia Beach and Norfolk. And also there were the similar late arrivals being reported in places like Cape May, New Jersey, and even further north.

Come early November, when the iconic monarchs really should have been crossing the Texas/Mexico border en route to their overwintering site 600 miles south of that border … they instead were still in New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia and throughout the Mid-Atlantic states. As late as early November, spotters as far north as Ontario were still reporting monarchs yet to have departed for their southbound migrations of up to 2,000 miles.

There are always examples of monarchs departing late in the season for their central Mexico home-sweet-homes – technically the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, between Mexico City and Morella and near the cities of Angangueo and Zitacauro. Once there and settled on the oyamel fir trees that dominate the area, the vast numbers roost at the same hillside sites those before them had settled in to.

Latest southbound migration since early 90s

University of Kansas Professor Emeritus Chip Taylor, PhD, of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, says that the 2017 southward migration is the latest he’s seen since he first began tracking the monarch migrations in 1992.

Taylor said in a telephone interview that some cooler August temperatures in the Midwest and Northeast slowed the monarchs’ 2017 development and rate of growth. Coupled with near-record temperatures in those same regions in late September and most of October, the picture becomes clearer.

Taylor, founder and director of Monarch Watch, says it all means those monarchs still in the mid-Atlantic states would face yet another 1,000 miles or so. And this year they would be flying through territory with few flowering plants providing the life-saving nectar they need. They were also headed into areas of nagging droughts and too little water.

Not great flying conditions if you’re a monarch butterfly already late, hungry and thirsty, and on a tight deadline.

Leaving their northern summer climes at weights of around 500 milligrams, the monarchs need to gain mass and arrive in their overwintering region in the range of 650 to 700 milligrams. That extra mass is critical if they are to survive for their spring northbound migration.

Not much chance of that for those still in the mid-Atlantic in early November, Taylor said. “Virtually none of these monarchs have any chance of getting to Mexico.”


5 Responses to “Critical to Maintain BioDiversity in a Changing Climate”

  1. dumboldguy Says:

    Ho-hum—-biodiversity?—–apparently quite a booooooring topic based on the non-response to this post. 4-1/2 billion years of evolution to get to this point (with five mass extinctions along the way) and no one seems interested in discussing this topic in the face of a looming sixth mass extinction, this one caused mainly by AGW-climate change, along with all the other disruptions man has made with his “progress” and “technological advances”, particularly with all the man-made substances that have existed “in natUre” for less than a century.

    ‘Yes, the biosphere-biomes/ecosystems DO depend on biodiversity, and it doesn’t take a whole lot of fancy studies to see that—-a basic understanding of biology and some common sense will do.

    I myself feel bad that the Monarchs are in trouble, but I worry more about what may happen down at the bottom end of the food chains and “pyramids”—-the bacteria, algae, and fungi that keep all the cycles going. We have now found “plastics” in the guts of creatures in the deepest parts of the oceans just as we have been finding in species living closer to the surface for decades, and the particles are getting smaller and smaller—will we find after a few more decades that there is some tipping point at which at which plastics (along with acidification and warming) knock the pins out from under many marine ecosystems? Will the use of pesticides kill the pollinators and the use of herbicides reduce land plant diversity to some dangerous tipping point?

    Time is running out.

  2. The Darwin principle applies.
    Failed species litter the geological record regardless of the factors behind their failure.
    A remnant gypsy band of part human cyborgs roaming the Galaxy or inhabiting our Solar System is not my definition of a successful species

    • dumboldguy Says:

      True to a point, but for 4-1/2 billion years those species have failed because of the same principles of “natural law” that led to their evolution in the first place—changes in climate and habitats, interactions with other species—-and they have been replaced by other species better suited to the new conditions (except for the one time that a large meteor “bombed” the large dinosaurs into oblivion).

      This is the first time that a mass extinction of living things that ARE otherwise adapted to conditions is being caused by the actions of one species, and AGW and the spread of poisons and environmental degradation in the name of “profit” are NOT “natural”.

      I hope to hell that the first humans that try to land on Mars DO die on landing (or get fried on the way), and I hope that happens soon—-maybe then Musk and the other “visionaries” will look to taking care of Earth—-the ONLY planet humans will ever call home.

  3. indy222 Says:

    Male fertility is dropping too; perhaps from plastics and hormone mimics. Or, maybe that’s just what nature does to a species that is stressing itself out like we are. I’ve got a marine biologist friend or two and they’re more worried about the plastics trend DOG described than even about climate change. What on Earth can we possibly do about the billions of tons of plastics already breaking down in the oceans? Not much….

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Your marine biologist friends are right to be more worried about plastics and “hormone mimics” (also known as “hormone imposters” and “endocrine disruptors”) more than climate change. If we wake up in time, we may be able to lower CO2 in the atmosphere enough to head off disaster, but as you say, we have NO idea how to combat a problem that may not fully manifest until the plastics break down into yet smaller particles and increase in concentration in the oceans—-one of those known unknowns that may occur next month or not for decades or 100’s of years. The fact that there is so much “silo thinking” and little effort to identify the many threats and prioritize responses doesn’t help.

      It bothers me is that we have paid little attention to the endocrine disruptor problem. Rachel Carson sounded the first big warning in 1962, and others have done so since. I have touted a number of books here, and one of the best on this topic was published over 20 years ago and has a foreward by Al Gore dated January 22, 1996 in which he states—-“Last year I wrote a foreward to the 30th. anniversary edition of Rachel Carson’s classic work Silent spring. Little did I realize that I would so soon be writing a foreward to a book that is in many respects its sequel”. That book is:

      OUR STOLEN FUTURE: Are We Threatening Our Fertility, Intelligence, and Survival—A Scientific Detective Story, by Colburn, Dumanoski, and Myers, Dutton 1996.

      Yes, human male fertility IS dropping precipitously, and we seem to be in a state of denial over that. Here’s a good link, but one in which the authors states “we don’t know why it’s happening”—–in FREAKING 2017!!!! Has no one read Carson or Our Stolen Future?

      The same “denial” thing is happening in my area, where male smallmouth bass in the Potomac River are developing female reproductive organs. It is said that MAY be due to all the chemicals (hormones, antibiotics) that wash down from from the poultry and animal farms in the headwaters in WV, where they are put in the feed. Those chemicals pass unchanged through the animals and the water treatment plants on the lower Potomac that feed water to the DC area. (The only plus there is that congresspeople may become sterile also—-if we could only come up with an antidote to give to Democrats).

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