The Insect Apocalypse is Here?

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sciborg2

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« on: November 28, 2018, 06:56:32 am »
The Insect Apocalypse is Here

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Scientists have begun to speak of functional extinction (as opposed to the more familiar kind, numerical extinction). Functionally extinct animals and plants are still present but no longer prevalent enough to affect how an ecosystem works. Some phrase this as the extinction not of a species but of all its former interactions with its environment — an extinction of seed dispersal and predation and pollination and all the other ecological functions an animal once had, which can be devastating even if some individuals still persist. The more interactions are lost, the more disordered the ecosystem becomes. A 2013 paper in Nature, which modeled both natural and computer-generated food webs, suggested that a loss of even 30 percent of a species’ abundance can be so destabilizing that other species start going fully, numerically extinct — in fact, 80 percent of the time it was a secondarily affected creature that was the first to disappear. A famous real-world example of this type of cascade concerns sea otters. When they were nearly wiped out in the northern Pacific, their prey, sea urchins, ballooned in number and decimated kelp forests, turning a rich environment into a barren one and also possibly contributing to numerical extinctions, notably of the Stellar’s sea cow.

Conservationists tend to focus on rare and endangered species, but it is common ones, because of their abundance, that power the living systems of our planet. Most species are not common, but within many animal groups most individuals — some 80 percent of them — belong to common species. Like the slow approach of twilight, their declines can be hard to see. White-rumped vultures were nearly gone from India before there was widespread awareness of their disappearance. Describing this phenomenon in the journal BioScience, Kevin Gaston, a professor of biodiversity and conservation at the University of Exeter, wrote: “Humans seem innately better able to detect the complete loss of an environmental feature than its progressive change.”

In addition to extinction (the complete loss of a species) and extirpation (a localized extinction), scientists now speak of defaunation: the loss of individuals, the loss of abundance, the loss of a place’s absolute animalness. In a 2014 article in Science, researchers argued that the word should become as familiar, and influential, as the concept of deforestation. In 2017 another paper reported that major population and range losses extended even to species considered to be at low risk for extinction. They predicted “negative cascading consequences on ecosystem functioning and services vital to sustaining civilization” and the authors offered another term for the widespread loss of the world’s wild fauna: “biological annihilation.”

It is estimated that, since 1970, Earth’s various populations of wild land animals have lost, on average, 60 percent of their members. Zeroing in on the category we most relate to, mammals, scientists believe that for every six wild creatures that once ate and burrowed and raised young, only one remains. What we have instead is ourselves. A study published this year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that if you look at the world’s mammals by weight, 96 percent of that biomass is humans and livestock; just 4 percent is wild animals.

We’ve begun to talk about living in the Anthropocene, a world shaped by humans. But E.O. Wilson, the naturalist and prophet of environmental degradation, has suggested another name: the Eremocine, the age of loneliness.
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TaoHorror

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« Reply #1 on: November 28, 2018, 03:54:33 pm »
The Insect Apocalypse is Here

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A study published this year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that if you look at the world’s mammals by weight, 96 percent of that biomass is humans and livestock; just 4 percent is wild animals.

We’ve begun to talk about living in the Anthropocene, a world shaped by humans. But E.O. Wilson, the naturalist and prophet of environmental degradation, has suggested another name: the Eremocine, the age of loneliness.

Gotta say, this just sucks. A world with the only free roaming mammals being humans and rodents, the rest gone or in a zoo.
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sciborg2

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« Reply #2 on: November 28, 2018, 11:27:17 pm »
Gotta say, this just sucks. A world with the only free roaming mammals being humans and rodents, the rest gone or in a zoo.

I suspect the diminished insect populations would coincide with our own populations being reduced - I'm thinking of those predator/prey system graphs they use to introduce Differential Equations.

So a significant drop in our population may coincide with a rise in insect and other wildlife populations.
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Wilshire

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« Reply #3 on: November 29, 2018, 02:33:10 pm »
Gotta say, this just sucks. A world with the only free roaming mammals being humans and rodents, the rest gone or in a zoo.

I suspect the diminished insect populations would coincide with our own populations being reduced - I'm thinking of those predator/prey system graphs they use to introduce Differential Equations.

So a significant drop in our population may coincide with a rise in insect and other wildlife populations.
lol, im sorry, differential equations? Not saying you're wrong *shudders*, but you could have gone with 'food webs' which I suspect is something a lot more people are familiar with.

Related though, the best working example of how interconnected things are (as far as I'm aware) is Yellowstone and the re-introduction of wolves. Its an absolutely incredible success story, which saw yellowstone's ecosystem in crisis and verging on collapse being saved by adding back in the apex predator that we killed off. (Though the provided example of sea otters/urchins is a good one too)

To me, its the height of hubris to think we're ready for the effects of mass extinctions. Give it another couple hundred years and maybe we can turn the world into neat pastures. Kill off all the crap we don't need, make engineered analogies of "wildlife" that works the way we need it... But that is purposeful terraforming and biosphere engineering on a scale far beyond what we can do now.

Right now, we're just stomping around killing stuff in the way. Anthropocene is probably inevitable, but without intentional its just self-xenocide.
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sciborg2

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« Reply #4 on: November 29, 2018, 06:36:16 pm »
lol, im sorry, differential equations? Not saying you're wrong *shudders*, but you could have gone with 'food webs' which I suspect is something a lot more people are familiar with.

Well not necessarily the equations themselves but the graphs. Honestly first thing that popped in my head b/c the populations of predators and prey work in tandem. Drop in prey leads to drop in predators, this leads to a rise in prey.

I don't think food webs would capture the temporal aspects of the co-existence relationship, but honestly I don't know much about food webs.

edit: here we go! ->

« Last Edit: November 29, 2018, 07:23:34 pm by sciborg2 »
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Wilshire

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« Reply #5 on: November 29, 2018, 08:37:44 pm »
You're absolutely correct, I wasn't disagreeing with the application. I just find it pretty hilarious that differential equations was your go-to explanatory device.

I distinctly remember in 6th grade learning about predator-prey relationships and seeing a similar graph when discussing ecosystems. I even think rabbits/wolves was the example given, but that's probably a false memory.
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sciborg2

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« Reply #6 on: November 29, 2018, 10:10:41 pm »
You're absolutely correct, I wasn't disagreeing with the application. I just find it pretty hilarious that differential equations was your go-to explanatory device.

I distinctly remember in 6th grade learning about predator-prey relationships and seeing a similar graph when discussing ecosystems. I even think rabbits/wolves was the example given, but that's probably a false memory.

Ah every few years I go back and review my maths, keeps the mind limber - so it's only like a few weeks ago I was reading that chapter on Diffy-Q...
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Wilshire

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« Reply #7 on: November 30, 2018, 01:39:59 pm »
That is admirable. I ... just let my brain atrophy. DiffEQ specifically was probably my single worst class in college. I grasped almost none of it, failed all the things.

IIRC, I got about the minimum passing grade possible - in a class of 30 I think about 10 failed, and I was like 18th of the remaining 20 that passed lol.
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TLEILAXU

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« Reply #8 on: November 30, 2018, 05:16:23 pm »
I vaguely remember the Lotka-Volterra equations from high-school.

BeardFisher-King

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« Reply #9 on: November 30, 2018, 07:14:41 pm »
I vaguely remember the Lotka-Volterra equations from high-school.
I vaguely remember that there is a subject called Differential Equations.
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sciborg2

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« Reply #10 on: November 30, 2018, 09:20:14 pm »
That is admirable. I ... just let my brain atrophy. DiffEQ specifically was probably my single worst class in college. I grasped almost none of it, failed all the things.

IIRC, I got about the minimum passing grade possible - in a class of 30 I think about 10 failed, and I was like 18th of the remaining 20 that passed lol.

OTOH I am a big fan of literature in the abstract but I can barely get through most classics anymore. It [also] took me a year to finish Blood Merdian, and only thanks to being able to look [up] words on the internet.

Even watching a subbed anime requires an unexpected amount of concentration lol.

I may try audio books, or reading the book while listening to the audio...
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TaoHorror

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« Reply #11 on: November 30, 2018, 10:22:44 pm »
That is admirable. I ... just let my brain atrophy. DiffEQ specifically was probably my single worst class in college. I grasped almost none of it, failed all the things.

IIRC, I got about the minimum passing grade possible - in a class of 30 I think about 10 failed, and I was like 18th of the remaining 20 that passed lol.

OTOH I am a big fan of literature in the abstract but I can barely get through most classics anymore. It [also] took me a year to finish Blood Merdian, and only thanks to being able to look [up] words on the internet.

Even watching a subbed anime requires an unexpected amount of concentration lol.

I may try audio books, or reading the book while listening to the audio...

I've pussied out for the most part with books and have been listening to audio books now.
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