Thoughts on Science Magazine May 9

Ecological restoration

Reference – http://mailings1.gtxcel.com/portal/wts/uemckdyf%7CTvqeggbmLjs2TBamvwskrdm%7E1CfPmtsODOWSrTa

This is a great initiative, but we need to be flexible. It will generally be impossible and maybe undesirable to restore old ecosystems in detail. Changes in local climates and other conditions mean that formerly “native” species may no longer be best adapted to where they used to be dominant. Some are no longer available.

The article uses two very important terms: sustainable and resilient. The system needs to stand on its own with minimal inputs or protection. I also think it important to keep in mind that we are usually not talking about preservation kept away from all hum an influences. We live in the anthropocene whether we like it or not, whether we recognize it or not.

New and nasty bugs

Reference – http://mailings1.gtxcel.com/portal/wts/uemckdyf%7CTvqeggbmLjs2T-qmvwskrdm%7E1CfPmtsODOWSrTa

This is the big downside to globalization. Bugs, pathogens and strange animals arrive and devastate an established environment. This has always been the way of nature. When long isolated islands come in contact with larger landmasses, species loss and change are inevitable. But humans have accelerated the process beyond the speed at which natural systems can adapt. Besides, we sometime like and depend on particular mixes of plants and animals and really do not want to give newcomers and equal opportunity. A bug worm that can maybe crawl only a few feet in a generation can move at 70 mph if it sticks to a car or even cross thousands of miles in a plane or boat.

We have to be vigilant to keep out destructive plant and animal immigrants, but vigilance will be insufficient. IMO, this is one of the strongest arguments for GMOs. Existing crops or trees can be altered in ways that maintain all their characteristics save that they are made immediately resistant to the new menace, a process that may have taken thousands of years of normal evolution. Of course, this does not save the current generation in most cases, but it does allow for a new one to grow up.

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