Monday, 21 May 2007

Pollinators under threat and Jenga theory of biodiversity.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service Endangered Species Bulletin, Highlights for 2006 includes a review of endangered species that are important as pollinators. The materialist justification for conserving wildlife -- for reasons such as production of medicines from rainforest plants -- is used commonly enough, but it is relatively unusual to see an article focusing on pollinators. And yet without pollinators hundreds of plant species might be endangered, including crops.

What is often not fully appreciated by the general public, is that many plants are reliant on only a very few species of insects, birds or mammals as pollinators; in some cases only a single species.

This brings me back to the Jenga theory of biodiversity conservation. Once you start removing the pieces from the Jenga tower of biodiversity, you can carry on removing individual pieces for quite a long time. And we have been doing so. But there comes a point where removing one more piece, even from somewhere near the top, can cause total collapse. And we don't know how near we are to that point. But I have little doubt, knowing how many of the pieces are missing, or rather now so rare as to be effectively missing, that collapse is a real prospect. In fact to take the analogy a step further, for every hundred or so pieces of biodiversity we remove from the Jenga tower, we are replacing them with a single piece made of lead, representing a load of extra humans, or cows. Or chickens. Or pigs. Or fields of oilseed rape etc etc etc. Thus making the Jenga tower incredibly unstable. The end result is unequivocally predictable.

And the human population, and its demand for increased animal production, is barely mentioned; and many of the aid agencies trying to wipe out poverty in the tropics don't even have policies on birth control.

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