Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Before Man

In the excellent New Scientist article, Vital giants: Why living seas need whales, researcher Steve Nicol eloquently explains why man must change current strategies in managing the ocean's resources before it's too late.

"They do so in at least three ways. The first is simply by mixing up ocean waters, which can return some nutrients to the waters above the thermocline. 

The second way in which animals can boost ocean productivity is by nutrient scavenging - feeding at depth and bringing nutrients back to the sunlit zone. Sperm whales, for instance, feed on squid and fish at great depths, and defecate at the surface. Models suggest that this recycling of deep material may well be significant for essential elements such as iron.

The third way in which animals may boost ocean productivity is by recycling nutrients within the sunlit zone. 

Whales produce buoyant plumes of faecal material that functions as liquid manure. Recent measurements of the iron content of the faeces of baleen whales by my team show that concentrations in whale faeces are at least 10 million times the background level in seawater. 

When factored in with the finding of animal populations in Korea's DMZ being much greater then when man was around makes one wonder what the world was like before us, when life operated at levels unable to be comprehended today, where original temperate forests routinely had trees 150' and higher as the norm and vast herds of buffalo and flocks of Morning Doves, among numerous other herding species, roamed the earth in numbers too vast to even contemplate.

"The de facto wildlife preserve encompasses 390 square miles of diverse terrain virtually untouched by human development for 55 years. Now, as this accidental Eden faces major development pressures, a growing contingent is pushing for its establishment as a transboundary nature park – which could also be a step toward peace between the two Koreas.

“This strip of land contains almost every type of ecosystem you can imagine,” says Alan Weisman, author of “The World Without Us.” “It has inadvertently become one of the most important wildlife conservation sites in the world.”

Makes one think doesn't it?

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