We discuss and comment on the role agriculture will play in the containment of the CO2 problem and address protocols for terraforming the planet Earth.
A model farm template is imagined as the central methodology. A broad range of timely science news and other topics of interest are commented on.
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Species Extinction Grossly Overstated
It has been obvious that the wild
eyed predictions of wholesale extinction were out of kilter for a long
time. This article starts to redress
that balance and put some sense into it all.
Besides, refugia do exist and
small populations will linger, waiting for an opportunity to jump out into
their larger ranges. It will take
generations, but the buffalo is on the way to reintroducing the Buffalo commons in the Great Plains and even in Russia. We can expect fully restored populations
inside of the next few centuries.
Besides all that we will have the
ability to use DNA to restore lost creatures inside the next five years or so
and I am certain that the process will become immensely popular. We may not want a particular beast near our
farm land, but any decent island will work wonderfully as a convenient
restoration refugia. I actually expect
to see the whole of our lost menagerie to be fully recovered and restored from
the recent past.
It will be more difficult for the
long extinct, but the mammoth and the mastodon are at the top of the list, particularly
if they turn out to be useful in the boreal forest.
Species loss far less severe than feared: study
Nobel laureates call for urgent UN action to save the planet Stockholm (AFP)
May 18, 2011 - Some 20 Nobel laureates called Wednesday for world leaders to
urgently act to ensure global sustainability, in recommendations handed over to
a special UN committee.
In the "Stockholm
Memorandum," the Nobel laureates and a number of environmental science
experts concluded that "the planet has entered a new geological age, the
Anthropocene," or the age of man.
In this era, where the most important changes to the planet are brought
on by human actions and not natural phenomena, the memorandum "recommends
a suite of urgent and far-reaching actions for decision makers and societies to
become active stewards of the planet for future generations."
Nobel Chemistry laureates Mario Molina and Paul Crutzen, who invented
the concept of Antropocene, Economics laureate Amarya Sen and Literature winner
Nadine Gordimer were among the signatories to the document.
The memorandum was created over the past two days at the Royal Swedish
Academy of Sciences in Stockholm, where it on Wednesday was handed over to
Finnish President Tarja Halonen, who co-chairs the UN High-level Panel on
The panel, which was appointed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon,
will draw up a report in part based on the memorandum suggestions ahead of the
UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro in 2012.
Among the suggestions proposed Wednesday was the need to "keep
global warming below two degrees Celsius, implying a peak in global CO2
emissions no later than 2015."
Global leaders must also recognise that "environmental sustainability
is a precondition for poverty eradication, economic development, and social
justice," the memorandum said, also calling for the development of
"new welfare indicators that address the shortcomings of GDP."
The Nobel laureates and other experts also stressed the need in a world
of almost nine billion people to "foster a new agricultural revolution
where more food is
produced in a sustainable way on current agricultural land."
On the first day of the symposium on Tuesday the Nobel laureates had
staged a mock trial against humanity on charges that it was destroying Mother
The pace at which humans are driving animal and
plant species toward extinction through habitat destruction is at least twice
as slow as previously thought, according to a study released Wednesday.
Earth's biodiversity continues to dwindle due to deforestation, climate
change, over-exploitation and chemical runoff into rivers and oceans, said the
study, published in Nature.
"The evidence is in -- humans really are causing extreme extinction rates,"
said co-author Stephen Hubbell, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology
at the University of California at Los
But key measures of species loss in the 2005 UN Millennium Ecosystem
Assessment and the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report
are based on "fundamentally flawed" methods that exaggerate the
threat of extinction, the researchers said.
The International Union for the
Conservation of Nature (IUCN) "Red List" of endangeredspecies --
likewise a benchmark for policy makers -- is now also subject to review, they
"Based on a mathematical proof and empirical data, we show that
previous estimates should be divided roughly by 2.5," Hubbell told
journalists by phone.
"This is welcome news in that we have bought a little time for
saving species. But it is unwelcome news because we have to redo a whole lot of
research that was done incorrectly."
Up to now, scientists have asserted that species are currently dying
out at 100 to 1,000 times the so-called "background rate," the
average pace of extinctions over the history of life on Earth.
UN reports have predicted these rates will accelerate tenfold in the
The new study challenges these estimates. "The method has got to
be revised. It is not right," said Hubbell.
How did science get it wrong for so long?
Because it is difficult to directly measure extinction rates,
scientists used an indirect approach called a "species-area
This method starts with the number of species found in a given area and
then estimates how that number grows as the area expands.
To figure out how many species will remain when the amount of land
decreases due to habitat loss, researchers simply reversed the calculations.
But the study, co-authored by Fangliang He of Sun Yat-sen University
in Guangzhou, shows that the area required to remove the entire population is
always larger -- usually much larger -- than the area needed to make
contact with a species for the first time.
"You can't just turn it around to calculate how many species
should be left when the area is reduced," said Hubbell.
That, however, is precisely what scientists have done for nearly three
decades, giving rise to a glaring discrepancy between what models predicted and
what was observed on the ground or in the sea.
Dire forecasts in the early 1980s said that as many as half of species
on Earth would disappear by 2000. "Obviously that didn't happen,"
But rather than question the methods, scientists developed a concept
called "extinction debt" to explain the gap.
Species in decline, according to this logic, are doomed to disappear
even if it takes decades or longer for the last individuals to die out.
But extinction debt, it turns out, almost certainly does not exist.
"It is kind of shocking" that no one spotted the error
earlier, said Hubbell. "What this shows is that many scientists can be led
away from the right answer by thinking about the problem in the wrong
Human encroachment is the main driver of species extinction.
Only 20 percent of forests are still in a wild state, and nearly 40 percent of
the planet's ice-free land is now given over to agriculture.
Some three-quarters of all species are thought to live in rain forests,
which are disappearing at the rate of about half-a-percent per year.