Thursday, June 28, 2007

organic molecules and big mamals

I was at a training yesterday and there was a SciAm subscription. During my breaks i happened to read it. i picked that one up because it had an article about the nucleotide that might have created life. the article was basically saying that RNA and DNA are higher up on the evolutioanry chart than many think. They argued that there were mor simpler molecules with carbon in them that were probably the precursors of life. It was also interesting because they outlined some broad conditions in which life would have to had occurred. One was that it would have to have happened in some small space where different chemical transactions and transformations turned the same set of chemicals back into themselves (a-b-c-d-a-b-c-e) or branch in different ways (a-b-c-d-e-b-d-e) etc [hard to draw in lines:]. i got a little bored of the article after i realized that i had intuitively known this a bit, or it was a re-hash of what i learned in a great book called microcosmos that i read a few years ago.

the other article i think was a bit more exicting though.
This article talked about repopulating the planet with large predatory animals. Elephants exert a disproportional amount of influence in their ecosystem because when they knock down trees, all sorts of organisms collect around the felled trees and create local ecosystems. It isn't a matter of size though, otters eat three times their body-weight in kelp, thereby regulating thier ecosystem not through mass but quantities consumed.

So, the argument was that before humans took over the planet in the las 50,000 years there was an abundance of large mamals that regulated the environments of all the different continents. So, the arguemt goes that re-introducing these large mamals would then create a massive beneficial effect on ecosystems that are seemingly in balance, but really out of whack. For instance, deer overpopulation.

I liked it for two reasons. The lesser reason is that they mentioned that fake Safari's get about 7 times the visitorship than national parks, and people go to see the big animals, not the flowers. Therefore, there would be more people going to national forests and parks to see the actually native (or closely related) big animals in their own habitat.

The greater reason is that this isn't just conservation, it's radical conservation. Before now, i haven't seen may articles or thoughts about re-creating the balanced ecosystem, most of the stuff that i've read was about stopping pollution and preventing ecological degradation. So now these 'conservationists' are going on the aggressive, which i applaud. Now there are proposals about how to actually re-balance the ecosystem first, and have humans cope with it instead of how to move humans somewhere and have the ecosystem follow its lead.

[the article was called Restoring America's Big Wild Animals]

google search word: rewilding

Superhero to consult: Captain Planet!
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