Does it really matter?
December 26, 2009 at 4:39 am #12520
I realize while saying this that I will get a rise out of a lot of you (which is perfectly understandable and agreeable) but I have a question. Does it truly matter to the ecosystem if an incredibly rare animal becomes extinct? I know that if a species becomes extinct then our future children wouldn’t get the chance to see it and that it’s human’s responsibility to take proper care a precautions of the Earth’s creatures, but in retrospect; would it truly matter to the immediate and global environment if, let’s say, the Iberian Lynx, with a population of 120 (http://www.animalinfo.org/rarest.htm), would go extinct?
December 26, 2009 at 12:06 pm #96264
in some very short time, it may matter (in the case of lynx, predators will be locally missing), what may cause some little disturbations to the ecosystem (herbivores can overpopulate, that can cause deplenishion of plants, spreading of patogens etc.), but this will be counterbalanced (new predators; the less plants, the less herbivors will survive; the more patogens, the less hosts may be available etc.). In the end, there will be new equilibrium 😉
Of course, also, probalby, the extinction won’t be from one day to another, so all these effects will happen all the time…
Something else is some big extiction, like dinosaures, which can lead to temporary colaps of ecosystem, but as you can see and as you are proof of it, the nature still survives even in such a case 😉
December 26, 2009 at 9:20 pm #96271
I would agree that the only ones that it really matters to is the animal going extinct.
Somehow its voice was not heard, and now it is lost.
December 27, 2009 at 4:22 am #96274plasmodesmata11Participant
I think that if the population is low enough, or the density of the animal is low enough, it would not have an impact. However, it is always possible that the species could repopulate. In retrospect, then, it would matter. But say there are, like in your example, very few of a species left. They will make little if any significant impact on the ecosystem.
And please keep in mind I am not saying their existence is meaningless, because it isn’t. 😀
December 27, 2009 at 4:28 pm #96279jwalinParticipant
wait we can’t be careless.
we can’t keep this attitude.
today its just one then tommorrow ther will be 2 and then we will have all extinct animals
December 27, 2009 at 10:18 pm #96283quote i_r_e_d:
I am going to assume that this comment is so human-ego-centric (I am sure there is a more technical term than this ).quote i_r_e_d:
This again is from a human’s point of view in which I am All in this world. Is there not another reason you can come up with for wanting a species not to go extinct, other than your offspring to oogle them?quote i_r_e_d:
Only since we seem to be taking up more than a fair share of the Earth’s natural resources.
December 31, 2009 at 12:03 am #96332quote :
By no means was that meant to be from a human’s perspective, instead it was meant to be from a view of the Earth as a living being.quote :
Not really… How does a species of population 120 in Asian affect the progression of this planet? Not very much at all… Can you come up with a reason other than that’s what we should do?quote :
I in no terms condone the extinction of any creatures. I agree with you, this was just some food for thought…
January 1, 2010 at 1:36 am #96356EndangeredParticipant
In the larger sense, it doesn’t matter much if it’s a "natural" extinction. Nature abhors a vacuum. Remove a large predator and the mesopredators move in. Delete a group of pollinators and others will evolve to exploit that niche…maybe not in time to stop the extinction of numerous plants, but you get the point.
In the decades to come, we are going to have to pick our battles as to which species to "save" because we’re not going to be able to save them all. I’ve spent the better part of my career dealing with endangered species issues and pondering this very question…but in the end, it’s just 2cents thrown into cyberspace.
January 1, 2010 at 4:56 am #96364quote i_r_e_d:
You are still a human ‘thinking’ you can project your view upon the Earth. You can give it any reason/excuse, but it is still a human’s perspective. Then again, it is the only truth that we know. Or what we perceive to know.
Do you think the Earth considers itself more than the planet Mars? Just because the Earth has carbon-based life forms instead of lovely swirling gases and cold hard elements only? (human perspective here, and lame humor).quote i_r_e_d:
I would want to know why there is only a population of 120 left in Asian. What would be the cause of this extinction? Is it a natural phenomenon/occurence? Are we the cause of this extinction? Perhaps not. I just read that the male cubs become very aggressive and can kill off their littermates when they get to 45 days (peak). This may be a behavior that was acceptable when there was plenty of them (and kept their numbers down to match the environment), but now when they are limited in number, it may not be a good idea. Perhaps the humans in this case are the ones who can help them survive as breeding programs can alleviate this destructive behavior.quote i_r_e_d:
What do you mean by ‘progression’ of this planet?
January 2, 2010 at 4:52 pm #96400ChromaParticipantquote i_r_e_d:
In general I’d avoid thinking as the world as a living being… From everything I’ve been able to gather Gaia Theory is more applicable the more loosely you apply the theory, until it’s been reduced to "the planet tends to have relatively stable systems"…
That being said if you think of the Earth’s biosphere as a system, then ask yourself what are the consequences of removing parts from any other system? Some will have very little effect while others will result in a loss or partial loss of function. Unlike most machines we build the Earth’s biosphere is able to replace pieces with new ones; but, this takes, relative to our perspective, an extremely long time to accomplish. So extinctions are very unlikely to wipe out all life on this planet, but given we are part of the system, and in a niche that is very dependent on a number of the worlds functions, we should not take extinction lightly; they often result in economic difficulties and can lead to *our* extinction… But in the end, the Earth could not care 😉
January 3, 2010 at 5:14 pm #96425quote kolean:
I mean that as time continues to progress, the planet continues to change… from dinosaurs, to really hairy mammals, to us, then to who knows what the heck is coming next…
January 3, 2010 at 5:50 pm #96427
Well, the Earth doesn’t really care, whether there are dinosaurs or some wolf, of which are are only 20 pieces 😉
March 18, 2010 at 5:28 pm #98374
There can be an objective value to the existence of a species if its an important species in its ecosystem. The interactions between each species and their importance is usually such a complex issue that the removal of one may have unpredictable consequences. If the rate of extinctions today is accelerating alarmingly due to human intervention, we might not understand the damage that an extinction caused to a whole ecosystem before its gone for a long time so we should be very prudent.
If we’re talking about species that are near extinction by more natural means, there’s probably not so much danger in that.
Now about subjective value, there is plenty. How much would you pay to see a live dinosaur? How much would future generations pay to see a live panda when they hear tales of this adorable creature? If a species gets extinct, its gone forever, having them alive is important for many people so does it really matter (if it doesn’t for the ecosystem)? It’s subjective, it depends on who you’re talking to.
March 18, 2010 at 5:37 pm #98375
what’s the difference whether some animal extincts due to "natural" reasons or due to human?
March 18, 2010 at 5:43 pm #98376
The distinction I was thinking is for example, the sudden reduction of an habitat for economic purposes would be a human reason. Natural reasons would be changes in climate or biotic factors, which are usually gradual. I think that sudden "natural" changes are probably very rare.
March 18, 2010 at 6:33 pm #98378
are they? As you mentioned the biotic factors, the bat’s populations in US are currently decimated by virus of white bat nose (or something like that), so if they all extincted, that would be fine? But if is human involved, we must stop our expansion and save every little nothing?
March 18, 2010 at 6:59 pm #98379
I don’t know. I said that there was probably not much danger to an ecosystem as a whole if the extinctions were natural because they’re usual a gradual process. Pointing an example of non-gradual natural extinction wouldn’t disprove that its usually a gradual process. However, if I’m wrong, and I admit I haven’t looked up much info about it, then no, it wouldn’t be fine so there’s no inconsistency there, the focus was the health of the ecosystem and not in some distinction about the cause of the extinction. The problem though is that, even in the cases of sudden natural extinctions, they can’t oscillate much further than the rate of especiation in the long run while the rate of extinctions due to economic growth is orders of magnitude higher in quantity.
Do we understand all these ecosystems so well, that we’re ready to say that it doesn’t matter?
March 19, 2010 at 9:55 am #98396
I don’t say, that extinction of anything is good, I’m just saying, that
1) for the planet and ecosystem in global it doesn’t really matter, whether something extincts
2) there’s no difference, whether anything extincts due to humans or due to anything else
March 19, 2010 at 3:15 pm #98408
I don’t agree with neither premise, but it may depend on what you mean by them. About the 2nd point, even if there were no qualitative difference between each cause of an extinction there is surely a quantitative difference. The quantity of extinctions caused by mankind’s desire to make money is not even comparable to natural ones, unless you’re thinking on mass extinctions that occurred in the past… sure, the ecosystems recovered quickly, but by quickly I mean in just a few million years. Recovery times, when applied to ecosystems, are usually not very reasonable for mankind’s timescale.
About the 1st point, sure, for the earth it doesn’t matter, if by that you mean only for the existence of the planet and life in general. If you’re thinking on human being’s future here then I don’t see why it would not matter. Certain keystone species are so much more important than they look at first sight to promote a stable ecosystem, the whole system would change drastically if one was to disappear and I’d argue that we don’t know the ecosystems that we’re changing in enough detail to say that extinctions don’t matter. They clearly do in some cases! In any case, an extinction cannot be reversed so, in the very least, actions that result in extinctions should be handled with great care. Promptly saying that it doesn’t matter just seems irresponsible to me, even if you don’t think ALL species should be preserved (which would be impossible anyway).
March 23, 2010 at 1:00 am #98554
In ecological terms, the extinction of a very rare plant or animal does not matter a damn.
In conservation terms, to many people, it may matter enormously. This is because humans react very strongly and very emotionally to this sort of thing. However, it will only be some people who care. I have met a person who has dedicated his life to saving some threatened native languages, when the last native speakers of those tongues are dying out. Frankly, I cannot see his work as having any importance at all, since the loss of those languages will not even be noticed by 99.999% of our species. You can say the same about the loss of rare species of plant or animal. We ascribe importance to their loss because of our emotions. This is neither right nor wrong, but very human.
We also have a very human and emotional response according to the size and shape of said species. People would be devastated by the loss of the giant panda, but not worry in the least about the extinction of the grey peat weevil of Vanuatu.
My point is that such losses are of importance in terms of human emotions. In terms of global ecology, they are totally unimportant.
We often forget that life on Earth today is based on less that 1% of all the species that ever lived. More than 99% are extinct, and no-one and nothing mourns the loss, except a few academics.
March 23, 2010 at 3:03 pm #98595
Well said mister skeptic…
March 24, 2010 at 1:50 am #98608mithParticipant
you’re also interested in preserving them if they have anti-cancer or anti microbial chemistry
April 7, 2010 at 3:15 pm #98846
Another value is in research.
For example, what if we can know more about the evolution of the great ape’s brains by studying creatures on other branches that also developed big brains, like dolphins. If we were unable to study living dolphins we could potentially lose knowledge about our own species.
This is sort of an extreme example but the point is that, when a species goes extinct, you might be losing precious knowledge that we could gather otherwise, regardless of any ecological considerations.
April 7, 2010 at 3:24 pm #98847
I don’t say, that no. Skeptic got my point exactly (and probably wrote it better than me:)
April 7, 2010 at 3:49 pm #98849
I got your point Jack. My replies to you were a little off because for some reason I missed the part in the OP that talked about an "incredibly rare animal" 😛 so I went on and on about ecological danger of extinction without realizing that detail. I agree that on that regard, it would be safe to say that it wouldn’t matter.
April 7, 2010 at 4:32 pm #98851
IMHO that doesn’t actually much matter 😆 😆 😆 (that it’s rare). But the point is – for Earth and life it doesn’t matter at all (no matter how much of that species there is), for human that can matter for reasons mentioned above
May 5, 2010 at 5:14 pm #99572EtrynParticipant
I’ve wondered about this same topic, and struggled to think of a good, quantitative reason why species conservation is important to the global ecosystem (I too agree that species have inherent value, but some people aren’t convinced). However, I recently read a paper (Tilden and Downing, 1994) about biodiversity and ecosystem resilience… In the study, ecosystems with higher species richness took less time to recover from disturbances. Though the removal of one species, such as the lynx mentioned by the OP, probably won’t have much effect, biodiversity is clearly healthy for an ecosystem. And in order to conserve biodiversity on a large scale, we have to conserve individual species! 🙂
May 5, 2010 at 8:00 pm #99574
Here in New Zealand, we have about 2,000 species of native plant. Perhaps half a dozen or so have gone extinct as a result of human activity. However, approximately another 2,000 species of plant have been introduced from overseas. So including exotics, we now have about 4,000 plants. Biodiversity has doubled in spite of the loss of a few species to extinction. If biodiversity contributes to stability in ecosystems, our ecosystems are now more stable.
This situation, more or less, applies globally, with the rapid spread of species due to human activity.
I am not suggesting that extinctions are OK. They are not. However, the loss of minor species is not of significance to ecosystems. They are of significance to humans, primarily in terms of the emotional impact of knowing we are losing species.
The biggest change to ecosystems, in fact, comes from the increase in biodiversity due to the introduction of exotics. This is a massive, sweeping change, and the consequences overall are still happening.
May 6, 2010 at 8:04 am #99589
exactly, that’s all I’m saying!
Of course, that the more species, the more stable (if are we talking about ecosystem in equilibrium, not newly introduced species, skeptic;). Why that? Imagine ecosystem, where you have only one species of grass, one of cow, on of wolf and one of assvogel and nothing more. Now remove wolfs fr some reason (new parasite, which kills all of them. Tan assvogels will die, as they have nothing to eat (assuming, they are eating only dead wolfs;), but cows will have outbreak and thus deplenish all the grass, leading to cow starvation and extinction.
Of course, that is too absurd, but if you had ten species at each level, then after extinction of any species the others will shortly take its place.
May 6, 2010 at 8:11 am #99591
Actually Jack, it does not matter whether the species are native or exotic. The same principle applies. More species = more stability.
May 6, 2010 at 8:34 am #99592
yes, that doesn’t matter, but matters, how long they are there. If you just now bring 20 new species, your ecosystem will probably collapse and it will take some time until balanced. Of course, after long time, they will add to the stability (but they will be almost-native at that time;)
May 6, 2010 at 8:40 am #99593
On that point, Jack, I agree. A good example is when South America collided with North America at the isthmus of Panama about 3 million years ago. It created a passage between, and a large number of North American species entered the south, and a large number of South American species entered the north. For a time there was ecological variability, and even some species going extinct. Then it all settled into a new balance, which was more stable than the first.
July 19, 2010 at 4:04 am #100599HobbleParticipant
If an animal is lost, another will move into the available niche and exploit it.
Dinosaurs were killed, Mammals moved into the spotlight.
September 22, 2010 at 7:05 am #101404kimsmarkinParticipant
I believe that if the population is so small or the density of animals is so small it would have no effect. However, it is always possible that the species could colonise. Looking back, then you import.
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