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Thread: Apology to Adelady, but......

  1. #1 Apology to Adelady, but...... 
    Forum Radioactive Isotope skeptic's Avatar
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    Her second signature line really bugs me. It reads ....


    "nature is like a game of Jenga; you never know which brick you pull out will cause the whole stack to collapse" Lucy Cooke

    Now, if this had been posted by one of those forum members who regularly posts pseudoscience, it would not bother me. But Adelady has impressed me with her good grasp of good science. So I am bugged when she posts, even as a signature quote, a load of total scientific bullshit.

    Comparing the balance of nature to a game of jenga is simply wrong. The balance of nature is normally very robust. Sure, humans change it frequently. But the rule is simple. A small intervention causes minimal changes, and the balance will recover. Even a moderate intervention will not prevent recovery. It takes a massive human intervention in an ecosystem to do what that signature line suggests, and cause an eco-disaster.

    Does anyone else agree with Adelady that this quote is appropriate, because I cry bullshit upon it?


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    lol


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  4. #3  
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    Her second signature line really bugs me. It reads ....


    "nature is like a game of Jenga; you never know which brick you pull out will cause the whole stack to collapse" Lucy Cooke

    Now, if this had been posted by one of those forum members who regularly posts pseudoscience, it would not bother me. But Adelady has impressed me with her good grasp of good science. So I am bugged when she posts, even as a signature quote, a load of total scientific bullshit.

    Comparing the balance of nature to a game of jenga is simply wrong. The balance of nature is normally very robust. Sure, humans change it frequently. But the rule is simple. A small intervention causes minimal changes, and the balance will recover. Even a moderate intervention will not prevent recovery. It takes a massive human intervention in an ecosystem to do what that signature line suggests, and cause an eco-disaster.

    Does anyone else agree with Adelady that this quote is appropriate, because I cry bullshit upon it?
    Depends how you interpret it. In each echo system there might be a tipping point after which the whole system just crashes, like Jenga. There might be a certain threshold after which a mass extinction even would be hard to avoid.
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    I think her statement is rather accurate. While I dislike the raw alarmism used by some in the environmental movement, there are hundreds of examples of a single introduction or removal of a species which led to complete transformation of ecosystems--often resulting in local extinction and dramatically reducing organism diversity. I find denial of these rather wishful and disturbingly naive.
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  6. #5  
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    Sorry to upset you skeptic.

    I selected that bit from here. Lucy Cooke and the war on cute wildlife | Environment | The Guardian

    At the time I was thinking about New Zealand surprisingly enough. Don't have it book marked, but skeptic should know what this is about. I'd been struck by the story of a long-lived tree, many of which are still going, but there are no replacements growing - because the seeds need to be consumed and processed by an animal that's no longer there. Which clicked(!) with what I'd read and heard about the unintended consequences of the Aswan High Dam. We did that deliberately, whereas the loss of that critter which supported the reproduction of trees was not deliberate, but harmful in equally unforeseen ways. (More recently I caught up with the long chain of links between whale populations and climate consequences as a different click! example. Yes we nearly drove them extinct and we're more or less stopping that. But from the point of view of the whale's role (whale poo's role actually) in feeding critters that draw down carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to the bottom of the southern Pacific, they are as near extinct as makes little difference. That series of interactions requires hundreds of thousands of the largest whales to work most effectively. )

    The issue isn't that nature is delicate. By and large, a lot of ecology is robust. We just don't know which parts are and which parts aren't. It's that we have no way of being certain in advance that apparently ordinary or insignificant parts of local or general ecology might be both delicate in some way and vital in some other way.
    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
    "nature is like a game of Jenga; you never know which brick you pull out will cause the whole stack to collapse" Lucy Cooke
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  7. #6  
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    Quote Originally Posted by KALSTER View Post
    Depends how you interpret it. In each echo system there might be a tipping point after which the whole system just crashes, like Jenga. There might be a certain threshold after which a mass extinction even would be hard to avoid.
    The tipping point is generally very near the end. Like the tipping point for a rain forest is the last tree you cut down. And even then, the seeds left behind will do their level best to re-form the forest.

    Some years ago, I owned a 6 acre bit of land. 4 acres were mature rainforest, and the other 2 were grassland, from destroying rain forest. My aim was to build my retirement home on those 2 acres. I had that land for 8 years, and I had to (somewhat guiltily) keep pulling out rainforest seedlings that kept colonising the grassy area. The ecosystem has such an amazing ability to recover, even after drastic damage.

    Even introducing a pest species does not destroy the ecosystem. Rats have done such a terrible job killing birds, but the ecosystem keeps right on going even if several bird species are extinct. Not at all like the jenga example.
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    Cane toad, pigs on islands, dingo in Tasmania, boars in southern US, starling, have these introduced species not changed their ecosystem significantly? Or for extinctions, what if honey bees were to go extinct? Ecology isn't my forte, apologies if I am incorrect.
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  9. #8  
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    Not at all like the jenga example.
    The jenga example isn't so much about the collapse.

    It's about the not knowing.
    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
    "nature is like a game of Jenga; you never know which brick you pull out will cause the whole stack to collapse" Lucy Cooke
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    well I get the jenga... if find it funny its such big deal...
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  11. #10  
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    Does anyone else agree with Adelady that this quote is appropriate, because I cry bullshit upon it?
    I think it is both true and misleading. It is very true that nature is a chaotic system; make ANY minor change (like, say, move a few rabbits from Europe to Australia, or zebra mussels from Russia to the US) and the resulting changes can be catastrophic. It is also misleading in that catastrophic collapse has long been part of nature; indeed, it is responsible for much of the diversity of life on this planet. For example, the K-T event was an epic catastrophe in the history of life on earth. It also gave mammals (and thus humanity) a chance to evolve.
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  12. #11  
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    Hmmm

    I still think the jenga comparison is misleading. The signature line talks of a total collapse, with the whole edifice falling to the ground. This implies something that is simply ot true about nature. If we are going to utterly destroy an ecosystem, we have to do something really drastic, like draining wetlands, or chopping down a rainforest and then burning the residue. The jenga line implies something that is not good science.
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    Or add a couple quagga muscles to the Great Lakes......
    Or a pair of Asian Carp to the Mississippi River system......

    No Skeptic, sometimes it takes a very minor change to result in enormous changes to entire eco system systems.
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  14. #13  
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    The signature line is not about change. It is about total collapse.
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    Lynx
    The signature line is not about change. It is about total collapse.
    Define collapse.... It would be entirely reasonable to consider the Mississippi river ecosystem collapsed, since by any more formal ecological measure (e.g. species abundance, density, diversity etc) has completely transformed those systems...
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    Lynx
    The signature line is not about change. It is about total collapse.
    its about collapse of one building not all buildings...
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  17. #16  
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    lol

    now i know a little about jenga
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    Define collapse.... It would be entirely reasonable to consider the Mississippi river ecosystem collapsed, since by any more formal ecological measure (e.g. species abundance, density, diversity etc) has completely transformed those systems...
    Yes, but the Mississippi river system ecosystem was not affected by a single small intervention. It was dramatically and drastically attacked from numerous fronts. The signature line talks of a single change making a collapse. Relating that aspect of jenga to ecology is not good science. Ecosystems can be destroyed. We all know that. Drain a swamp and it is destroyed. But you do not destroy it with one small intervention, like the jenga example.

    Ecosystems are generally very robust. They can tolerate a lot of small changes. Small interventions do not create great change, and certainly not collapse. Instead, small interventions are followed by ecosystem recovery. In jenga, there is no recovery.

    My objection to Adelady's signature line is that it is designed to mislead, which is not a good tactic for someone promoting good science. It is getting into environmental politics, where the truth becomes a disposable resource. In science, we require higher standards.
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    not having played jenga but get the basis of the game, is there not a bit down the bottom that doesn't collapse? and even then aren't all the building blocks still there to reconstruct a new game/environment? and are ecosystems really stable in the long run? i guess it depends on the timeframe chosen. and it is just a quote when all said and done.
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    The signature line talks of a single change making a collapse.
    Have you ever played jenga?

    When a collapse happens, it's the result of a long sequence, or not so long if you're clumsy, of remove one block, add one block. Any group that doesn't include a toddler or other ham-fisted iconoclast can go quite a few rounds with little to no effect on the stability of the "structure". And that's the mental picture I got from Lucy Cooke's quote. That often you can get away with removing features and adding features to an ecology and not make any apparent impact. But once you've done that for a while, you have no way of knowing whether one more change might wreck the joint - let alone which of the previous changes made it more likely that this particular change would be a catastrophic one.
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    Yes, Adelady, but that is not the way it works in ecology. If you are damaging an ecosystem with too many changes for recovery, then the ecosystem will show the damage. It is not a case of a single change causing collapse, which is the implication of your signature line. It is the cumulative effect of many changes, each of which is causing measurable damage. Basically, you have taken a quote from a politician, who is not concerned with accuracy, and applied in in a science forum.

    As I said, it would not bother me if it was lots of other people. But you are one of the few on this forum who delivers good science. Thus, you are worthy of being a role model to those who believe pseudoscience. For this reason, I am more concerned when you (or the few others like you) lapse.
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    Basically, you have taken a quote from a politician, who is not concerned with accuracy, and applied in in a science forum.
    Politician?

    Well, she's not a scientist, but she goes out on fieldwork with scientists to publicise their work. The Amphibian Avenger

    She might have a bit of an obsession about frogs and other amphibians and other non-cute, otherwise unattractive critters, but she's far from negligible.
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    Adelady

    I used the term politician in the wider sense, meaning someone with an agenda who is trying to achieve that agenda through 'publicity' (also called propaganda). In a sense, anyone with a cause is a politician. Such people communicate their view of the world, including very subjective and inaccurate assessments, often exaggerated. The contrast is a scientist, who applies rigorous standards to ensure that all communications are kept strictly objective and accurate.
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    Yes, Adelady, but that is not the way it works in ecology. If you are damaging an ecosystem with too many changes for recovery, then the ecosystem will show the damage. It is not a case of a single change causing collapse, which is the implication of your signature line. It is the cumulative effect of many changes, each of which is causing measurable damage. Basically, you have taken a quote from a politician, who is not concerned with accuracy, and applied in in a science forum.
    Well that's not the ecology class I took for sure and I think you are missing the point. While you correct to point out ecosystems are often more resilient than we sometimes appreciate, you go too far the other way. Sometimes single introductions of an alien species, building of a single obstacle, adding a disease, or exploitation of a single top predator or key species on low on the trophic levels completely destroys an ecosystem and replaces it with another that's oftentimes completely different set of organisms.

    Just a few examples from the places I've lived.
    Nutria rats were brought into the Southern US for a fur farm and escaped. Being a generalist, avid eater and continuous breeder it's been quick to spread through out the Southern US, up the eastern coast and now made its way to several marsh systems in Oregon. It's affects in places like Louisiana are dramatic as they eat tall grasses down to the roots, replacing rich habitats with low diversity short grass systems particular prone to erosion (the last thing Louisiana needs).

    We are now a couple decades into understanding the significant changed the removal for a century and recent reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone. Elk, deer and beaver populations with much different population distribution abundance and behaviors. And now deeper changes from the altered erosion patterns that are even effecting the very geography if the river systems and fish populations as well. Such top-predator throphic cascades are being documented all over the world in nearly every type of habitat.

    One of the most problematic species in the Pacific Northwest is the Scotch broom, brought in for its brilliant yellow blossoms as an ornamental and did far too well. It has no natural fauna, insects or disease to slow its spread, seeds that survive nearly a decade, and fast growth rate that quickly crowds out all competing grasses and other establishment plants such as alders, and snow berry. It has completely destroyed thousands of square miles of native Gary oak habitat which are natural prairies of grasses, Gary oak, huckleberry, camas and other plants as well as a range of butterfly that used to be ideally suited for thin soil dry summer and wet winter places. What remains of Gary oak habitat is being artificially protected by humans with mechanical and herbicide destruction of the scotch broom.

    And honestly arguing that there have been other human effects is a given, since I doubt there's any real wilderness untouched by our species left remaining anywhere.
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    I think you may have missed the point. Humanity has affected ecosystems everywhere. That is a given. It is the degree of intervention required to cause ecosystem collapse. I do not believe there has ever been a case anywhere where a single and minor intervention (only major interventions like draining wetlands) has caused total ecosystem collapse.

    The suggestion that this can and does happen is scientifically misleading.
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    The suggestion that this can and does happen is scientifically misleading.
    Do you know what an ecosystem is?

    If you visited my home you'd see a spectacular example of an entire ecosystem destroyed by Scotch Broom. It used to be a Gary oak community. A single old Gary oak stands on one end of my property completely surrounded by the weed--there are no camas, no snow berry, no snow berry, nockta roses, no grass, or any of several dozen other plants associated with Gary oak ecosystems. Other than the edges of my lawn where I've been fighting a futal attempt to cut and kill the broom and replants a few natives it is completely taken over by the weed. It is for all intents completely destroyed with no possibility of reversal. From the few ancient Gary Oaks which still stand like giants amid the continuous field of one invasive species, you can see the boundary of the thin soiled glacial moraine where the Gary Oak prairie thrived for centuries (there are not big stumps from cedar, fir and other common species). Such examples are extremely easy to find just about anywhere.
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    I would suggest that the arrival and evolution of our species has been 'the singular effect' upon the ecosystem and that our very success in manipulation at the microscopic and atomic levels will have consequences that we could never have imagined while we were pursuing our own purposes.

    We have ever been builders and destroyers both and each civilization lays it's foundations on the bones of the one which went before.
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    I have never seen, or read about a single minor intervention causing total ecosystem collapse, and my country has been more dramatically affected than any other in the last 1,000 years. I understand, Lynx, that you believe this to be true, but I seriously doubt that a single introduction, with no other intervention, would have that effect. I strongly suggest you do a bit more research. You will find that other interventions have been at work.

    I am not an apologist for human impact on ecosystems. I am very well aware of what we have done. Being a New Zealander, I suspect I am more aware of this than most people, since the NZ ecology has been drastically changed over the last 800 years, since the first humans arrived. However, nothing resembles a game of jenga. The drastic changes came as a result of massive interventions. Many, many interventions, and many of which were far from minor.

    Anyone living in North America or Europe may be led astray by the simple fact that a very large chunk of those interventions have been spread over a long time, since the first Clovis spear points began slaughtering megafauna. You are not going to see the full picture by looking at something happening over the last couple decades.

    No anecdote can be scientifically convincing. Nor do I believe there is any peer reviewed scientific papers that will support the fallaceous jenga analogy.
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    With humans, the analogy would be more fitting if it were about putting something into an ecosystem rather than removing it.

    That having been said, you can make alterations at the primary level of a local food chain and have massive widespread effects. It should be noted, however, that extinctions are as much a part of ecosystem evolution as any other aspect. I know we get very upset thinking about the removal of a species in its entirety (very much so if it was due to human interaction with that organism), but natural extinctions are perfectly normal.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flick Montana View Post
    With humans, the analogy would be more fitting if it were about putting something into an ecosystem rather than removing it.

    That having been said, you can make alterations at the primary level of a local food chain and have massive widespread effects. It should be noted, however, that extinctions are as much a part of ecosystem evolution as any other aspect. I know we get very upset thinking about the removal of a species in its entirety (very much so if it was due to human interaction with that organism), but natural extinctions are perfectly normal.
    So if and/or when we effectively bring about our own downfall, even demise, it is all really quite logical and just the way things work. Some species have a very long window of opportunity while others do not endure for very long. After all, we still have not definitively answered the question of our origin.
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
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    The signature line is not about change. It is about total collapse.
    I think to some extent you are right, nature does not react to disruption in total collapse, however it does not like mans intervention. I think it depends on the type of intervention and the whole card game could come down.
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    At the risk here of my contribution here being about as welcome as a dose of herpes at an orgy, certainly I arn't going to in any way offer an opinion on this debate, I do want to say that it did make me want to read the article and a bit about Lucy Cooke.
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    Much of the contention of this thread is misunderstanding of what is meant by ecosystem. I think Skeptic sees it as of the largest, and of the scale they are often referred to as biomes. Small devastated ecosystems from minor man-induced changes are quite numerous....in the county I live in, there are a half dozen lake ecosystems completely destroyed by invasive plant species usually from an acts so minor as moving a boat trailer between from an invaded lake to another water bodies on the same day. In just a few years it can transform a shallow lake from being less than 10% covered in shallow water native aquatic plants supporting a rich diversity of native warm water species, to a lake more than 90% covered in plants, unable to support most native species because of huge variations in dissolved oxygen (DO) during the year.
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    Lynx

    I think you may have missed the point. Humanity has affected ecosystems everywhere. That is a given. It is the degree of intervention required to cause ecosystem collapse. I do not believe there has ever been a case anywhere where a single and minor intervention (only major interventions like draining wetlands) has caused total ecosystem collapse.

    The suggestion that this can and does happen is scientifically misleading.
    But if you have numerous and repeated interventions, as the game of Jenga represents, then it can have a very negative affect on the ecosystem.

    Lets look at the introduction of rabbits or feral cats in the Australian wilderness. Certainly, one or two rabbits are not going to cause the devastation or collapse of an ecosystem. Nor would the same apply to cats.

    Rabbits breed. That one minute intervention by way of introducing rabbits into the Australian ecosystem has resulted in devastating effects on the Australian ecosystem and on flora and fauna species:

    Since their introduction from Europe in the 19th century, the effect of rabbits on the ecology of Australia has been devastating. They are suspected of being the most significant known factor in species loss in Australia. The extent of plant species' loss is unknown at this time though it is known that rabbits often kill young trees in orchards, forests, and on properties by ringbarking them.[6]
    Rabbits are also responsible for serious erosion problems, as they eat native plants, leaving the topsoil exposed and vulnerable to sheet, gully, and wind erosion. The removal of this topsoil is devastating to the land, as it takes many hundreds of years to regenerate
    As for feral cats, they are decimating local wildlife in many areas of the country.

    HUGE FERAL CATS ON the prowl in Arnhem Land could be responsible for a mass decline in native mammals, researchers say.
    Ferals such as these roam Australia in enormous numbers, feasting on native wildlife. These photographs were taken by the traditional owners of the Warddeken Indigenous Protected Area (IPA in the Northern Territory.
    Australian Geographic photographed the Warddeken IPA and rangers for a feature article last year.
    Dr Graeme Gillespie, director of terrestrial ecosystems with the Northern Territory Department of Land Resource Management, is investigating the threat of feral cats as a potential threat in the Warddeken IPA.
    "There’s been a catastrophic decline in small and medium native mammals across the top of Australia over the last 20 or so years," says Graeme. "We think that cats have played a major role in that decline."
    In such examples, the Jenga analogy is correct and apt.
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    Agreed that numerous interventions can devastate.
    But that is not what I was talking of. The jenga statement implies that a single intervention, of a minor nature, can cause ecosystem collapse. Even if it is the latest of many interventions, the single minor intervention will have a minor, though additive effect - not a total collapse.

    I regard the jenga analogy to be scientific bullshit. Quite beneath someone as scientifically correct normally, as Adelady.
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    really interesting discussion.
    skeptic you seem to be alone.
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    Tranquille

    Agreed that numerous interventions can devastate.
    But that is not what I was talking of. The jenga statement implies that a single intervention, of a minor nature, can cause ecosystem collapse. Even if it is the latest of many interventions, the single minor intervention will have a minor, though additive effect - not a total collapse.

    I regard the jenga analogy to be scientific bullshit. Quite beneath someone as scientifically correct normally, as Adelady.
    A single intervention could amount to the release of a male and female rabbit into the environment. It doesn't take much.
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    The release of a single male and a single female can do much damage, but that is not what the jenga signature line implies. It implies not damage, but collapse. A single male and female will not cause collapse. For example, if you relase rats into a rain forest, they may cause some extinctions, but the rainforest ecosystem will continue. No collapse.
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    Quote Originally Posted by sir ir r aj View Post
    really interesting discussion.
    skeptic you seem to be alone.
    I do not think he is so alone, I think he is making a good point, nature does not collapse so easily.
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    Thank you, stargate.

    Sadly, some of the sillier beliefs relating to ecology are driven by politics, not science. As members of a science forum, we should try to express good science, rather than environmental politics.
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    Yes, it's a science forum. Which sort of means we should accept there's quite possibly some science to more than 10,000 journal papers dealing with trophic cascades, a large fraction of which deal with dramatic changes to ecosystems from small introductions of other species or other seemingly minor initial changes to biotic and abiotic factors that led to highly non-linear changes to those systems. Not hard to find the huge transformation of an entire continent of Australia to the introduction of a few hundred rabbits, not contained aquatic ecosystems completely changed by invasive plants.

    While I often applaud your cautions against emotionalism that sometimes creeps into pop culture "science" discussions--dramatic ecosystem transformation from minor changes are VERY well documented in ecology.

    --
    One of the problems is developing models for these trophic cascades--thus far they seem rather unpredictable because of complex intraspecies and interspecies relationships.

    Here's a recent published attempt to develop a general model to predict local extinctions from trophic cascades:
    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal...ATURE-20130711
    Last edited by Lynx_Fox; November 16th, 2013 at 06:26 PM.
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    I think you are getting mixed up between damage and collapse.

    The quote, which I raised an objection to, suggests a single small change will "cause the whole stack to collapse."

    Certainly, small man made changes can cause damage to ecosystems. But the degree of damage depends on the degree of change. Total collapse surely means total destruction of an ecosystem. And I do not mean a biome. If a small ecosystem exists, like a few hectares of rain forest, then introducing a pair of rats, for example, is not going to cause the whole stack to collapse. The rain forest will persist, along with most of its living inhabitants.

    If you dispute this, then please introduce a peer reviewed paper to the contrary. I studied ecology at university (among other things) some 45 years ago, and I have maintained an interest ever since. I have never come across a case where a small man made change caused an entire ecosystem to collapse.

    I maintain that the quote in Adelady's signature is scientific bullshit, and should not be there.
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    For me this is simply, damage is not collapse, that is not to say a collapse cannot occur however, nature adapts, modifies, change, it does not easily collapse. I will concede if someone can show where that is so.
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    Lynx

    I think you are getting mixed up between damage and collapse.

    The quote, which I raised an objection to, suggests a single small change will "cause the whole stack to collapse."
    I think there is a genuine acceptance that ecosytems are complex systems comprising inter-relationships and dependencies and that human intervention may not appreciate these interrelationships. For example, an ecosystem is dependent on a water source and the natural fluctuations in a water source from say snow melts and dry seasons has over time resulted in speciation of this ecosystem that reflects this variability. A 'perceived' small change such as re-diverting flows from controlled irrigation techniques has in certain regimes resulted in what I would call a 'collapse' of the ecosystem. The Murray-Darling Basin (MDB) is a current example following this path but as an extreme example I would cite the Aral sea environmental disaster.

    The supposed small bricks we disrupted was the natural flows of the water source upon which the ecosystem was configured to depend on. It was not the raw volume of water supplied to the ecosystem that has caused extreme stress of the river system with respect to the MDB, but the seasonal variation in availability which was pivotal. This oversight in my opinion exemplifies Adelady's quote used and is is even more pertinent as Adelady I assume is located at the mouth of the Murray Darling Basin and can see first hand the impacts of man's small 'bricks' of change. :-))

    PS It is with the benefit of hindsight that we can appreciate that was previously would have been regarded as a 'small change' was in fact an extreme disruption. If we had know of this result prior to human intevention, of course the actions taken would never had occurred place in the first place. We might argue that the alterations that have taken place were in fact 'large alterations' and not 'small alterations', but at the time, the actions would have been considered immaterial to the ecosystem concerned and that is why we proceeded full steam ahead. It was through a lack of understanding and knowledge of how the ecosystem operated that took us down this path. The science of understanding the dynamic relationships of ecosystems is in reality a nascent field and there is still much to learn. The game of Jenga is a useful one in ramming home this principle.
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    Lynx

    I think you are getting mixed up between damage and collapse.
    Not at all. Though it would be more useful is we defined the difference....


    Certainly, small man made changes can cause damage to ecosystems. But the degree of damage depends on the degree of change.
    Surely you understand the concept of non-linear dynamic systems.

    Total collapse surely means total destruction of an ecosystem.
    How do you wish to define that? As in 100% of even microbial life is gone or replaced? Or more reasonably?


    And I do not mean a biome. If a small ecosystem exists, like a few hectares of rain forest, then introducing a pair of rats, for example, is not going to cause the whole stack to collapse. The rain forest will persist, along with most of its living inhabitants.
    You don't seem to understand what ecosystem means. What you describe, in ecological terms, is perforated fragmentation....with the ecosystem (and matrix) remaining as the rain forest.

    If you dispute this, then please introduce a peer reviewed paper to the contrary.
    In addition to the meta study I already posted you mean?


    But as as example lets look at Asian Carp in the Missouri river:
    "Populations of 17 species are increasing and 53% of these are introduced, primarily salmonids, forage fishes, and Asian carps. Ninety-six percent of the 24 species whose populations are decreasing are native. Fishes listed as globally critically imperiled and federally endangered (G1) or globally vulnerable (G3) include pallid sturgeonScaphirhynchus albus (G1), lake sturgeon Acipenser fulvescens, Alabama shad Alosa alabamae, sturgeon chub Macrhybopsis gelida, and sicklefin chub M. meeki (G3). Eleven fishes are listed by two of more of the seven main-stem states as imperiled; all are big river species."
    "Spatiotemporal Patterns and Changes in Missouri River Fishes" by David L. Galat, Charles R. Berry et al.

    If 96% of declining species are native...well I call that collapsing...how about you?

    Dramatic decreases in Lake Michigan phytoplanktons due to two invasive mussel species :" when lake-wide responses were punctuated by abrupt decreases, putting them in the range of oligotrophic Lake Superior. The timing of these dramatic production drops is coincident with expansion of populations of invasive dreissenid mussels, particularly quagga mussels, in each basin. The combined effect of nutrient mitigation and invasive species expansion demonstrates the challenges facing large-scale ecosystems and suggest the need for new management regimes for large ecosystems."
    Incidental Oligotrophication of North American Great Lakes - Environmental Science & Technology (ACS Publications)
    Another meta study including hundred of others about effects of invasives on fresh water ecosystems:
    Alien species in fresh waters: ecological effects, interactions with other stressors, and prospects for the future - STRAYER - 2010 - Freshwater Biology - Wiley Online Library

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/store/10.1111/j.1365-2427.2009.02380.x/asset/image_n/FWB_2380_f4.gif?v=1&t=ho3lfuv3&115670a1

    See figures 4 and figures 6:

    More than 50% decreases across entire native groups of organisms. including -90% drop on phydoplankton, -75% in native bivalves ...I call that collapse.


    More than 90% drops in available light at less than 1 meter deep after invasion by one aquatic plant species. I described a similar effect in several ponds near me...there's probably one near you as well....anyhow it's pretty common and in many studies.

    I studied ecology at university (among other things) some 45 years ago, and I have maintained an interest ever since. I have never come across a case where a small man made change caused an entire ecosystem to collapse.
    No offense intended, but perhaps you have some catching up to do in your field. Just about every aspect of biology has so changed in the past 20 years, that even undergraduate credits and degrees are no being accepted into many other programs if they are more than about ten years old.

    I maintain that the quote in Adelady's signature is scientific bullshit, and should not be there.
    That's your choice...but you are very much wrong about this one.
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    Had a passing thought about this. Perhaps it's the word collapse itself.

    To me, collapse merely means no longer fit for function. It doesn't mean shattered to molecular smithereens.

    So if a bridge collapses, it doesn't mean that the constituent materials are gone forever, it means that those materials are no longer held in a form that can support pedestrians or trains or cars needing to cross a gap or a river at that point. When a house collapses, it hasn't been consumed in flames, it's simply no longer able to shelter the people who otherwise could have lived in it.

    Not does it matter that a collapse eventuates from lack of maintenance or from exceeding the weight limits of a bridge or from repeated vandalism or winds exceeding the designed resistance of a building or if it's military sappers or civilian demolition crews doing it deliberately - it's no longer capable of its previous function. Same thing for the environment. It can be a large, deliberate activity for the express purpose of eliminating all or some of the previous functions of a system - diverting or damming rivers are the obvious examples here. It can be lots and lots of small encroachments - one person clears a few acres of a forest, then a dozen more people are attracted to that area, then hundreds more - and then, suddenly, they all look around themselves and see no forest at all, just trees here and there at the scattered edges of "productive" parcels of land.

    And they wonder where all those lovely birds went.
    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
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    The word 'collapse' is used in a jenga analogy. Collapse in that game means a stack of wooden pieces has fallen apart, and the stack no longer exists, except in the form of scattered bits of wood.

    In ecology, the equivalent cannot be a change. It cannot be a change in species composition where species A has dropped to 1% of its former levels, while species B increases in number. The collapse means the entire structure is now in small bits. I do not take it to the point of suggesting sterility, which does not exist in nature anyway. But it is the equivalent of draining a wetland, so that the wetland ecology no longer exists, perhaps replaced by a grassland ecology.

    Lynx keeps giving examples which are simply changes in species composition. They cannot really be called 'collapse' comparable to the jenga stack falling and scattering across the floor.

    At the very least, that jenga example has to be seen as terribly misleading. Anyone who takes it seriously will end up believing that a small human caused change can cause an entire ecosystem to change to the point where that specific ecosystem no longer exists. And that is simply not true.

    In fact, I think the intent of that quote, by the original author, was to convey the idea that nature is very fragile. Again, not true. Ecosystems are very robust and flexible. They can absorb heaps of punishment and adapt to that punishment. I find the message appalling, and think it has no place on a science forum.
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    Or just one animal that likes seeds from the tree in dominant abundance--killing reproduction and completely changing the distribution of trees and supporting species in a single tree generation--something that it appears happened to many Pacific Island ecosystems.
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    Anyone who takes it seriously will end up believing that a small human caused change can cause an entire ecosystem to change to the point where that specific ecosystem no longer exists.
    Once again, that's not how jenga works.

    It's the accumulated effect of lots of take-one-put-one processes that makes the final event possible. Do them badly or clumsily, and a few moves can wreck the whole thing quickly. Skillful or lucky players can make the whole thing stay stable for a very long time. But, the big difference with jenga is that you know, for certain, that the system will collapse at some time if you keep playing. So you either have to abandon the game if you want to keep one configuration of its progress or you have to pick up the pieces after collapse, start again, and see if you and your team can do better next time.

    What Lucy Cooke is pointing to is that
    a. if you were playing jenga you'd know that collapse is on the way and, if you want to win, you have to be careful that any particular move you make is not going to be the collapse event, and ...
    b. when you're not playing a tabletop game but involved in agriculture or forestry or fishing or whatever, you really do need to work out in advance that you're not playing an ecological version of jenga.
    (c. and if you do see an ecological collapse in process, it isn't as easy as picking up and re-starting a jenga game. )
    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
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    Adelady

    Re-read your signature. That is not what Lucy Cooke said.

    A game of jenga involves building a tower. The key point to the Cooke quote is that a single piece removed causes total destruction of that tower. Ecosystems do not operate that way.
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    Ecosystems do not operate that way.
    With many keystone species that's exactly what happens. Removal of a single piece brings down the "tower":
    " Empirical as well as theoretical work show that the loss of a single species can trigger a cascade of secondary extinctions, and hence lead to dramatic changes in the trophic structure of an ecological community (Paine 1966; Estes & Palmisano 1974; Borrvall, Ebenman & Jonsson 2000; Solé & Montoya 2001; Dunne, Williams & Martinez 2002a; Ebenman, Law & Borrvall 2004; Koh et al. 2004; reviewed by Ebenman & Jonsson 2005). Such changes in community structure caused by species loss and subsequent secondary extinctions may alter the resistance of a community to future perturbations (Ives & Cardinale 2004)."

    Species loss and secondary extinctions in simple and complex model communities - EKL[]F - 2006 - Journal of Animal Ecology - Wiley Online Library
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    A game of jenga involves building a tower.
    No, it doesn't.

    You start with a tower constructed in a completely standard way. Then the players remove and replace one piece at a time. See the wiki ... Jenga - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    During the game, players take turns to remove a block from a tower and balance it on top, creating a taller and increasingly unstable structure as the game progresses.

    And that's why Lucy Cooke's analogy works. Because in any environment, you're starting with something that already works in a particular way (or is already showing signs of having previous subtractions, additions and substitutions affecting it).
    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
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    To Lynx

    No. A single change does not "collapse" an ecosystem. Certainly it can cause changes in trophic systems. Certainly it may cause localised extinctions. But it will not cause collapse.

    As I said before, I do not think you know what 'collapse' means. You take damage to mean collapse, and it is not. Collapse is what happens, as I said before, if you drain the wetland and turn it into grassland. The original ecology is not just altered a bit. It is destroyed and replaced completely. That is collapse. A trophic change is not the same.

    Adelady.

    Yes, the game starts with a built tower, but it still has to be built. However, that is a quibble. The difference between jenga and reality is that jenga involves removing one piece and seeing total collapse. That does not happen in real life. Certainly one change can cause harm, but not total collapse. The jenga quote is utterly misleading, because it implies a level of fragility in natural ecosystems that is just plain wrong.

    Basically, Cooke was pushing a false idea, and it is sad to see you perpetrating a lie.
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    I perceive this entire discussion as little more than how each person cares to interpret the phrase in question. My own interpretation is that we frequently are not aware of which piece is actually the load bearing lynch pin for the structure simply because we lack the complete understanding of 'architexture' in the context of broader ecology. It is indeed fortunate for us that the system is dynamic and capable of recovery even if we manage to effectively limit or decimate the ability for the system to support our own species.

    Many other species would survive, even if those species were not mammals.

    We might consider such an event to be catastrophic but to the universe, it would be just another day and 'business as usual'.
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    What she chooses is her choice and we should respect it as a part of her individuality. GO ADELADY! Isn't your tag line a bit of self expression and should be taken as such?
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    Quote Originally Posted by adelady View Post
    A game of jenga involves building a tower.
    No, it doesn't.

    You start with a tower constructed in a completely standard way. Then the players remove and replace one piece at a time. See the wiki ... Jenga - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    During the game, players take turns to remove a block from a tower and balance it on top, creating a taller and increasingly unstable structure as the game progresses.

    And that's why Lucy Cooke's analogy works. Because in any environment, you're starting with something that already works in a particular way (or is already showing signs of having previous subtractions, additions and substitutions affecting it).
    This game is coming from a very long time ago, the Dogons from Mali used to play it and were excellent players. It was played in Ghana and is still played today not by the masses anymore as it was some time ago. Some people start from the bottom and some from the top, there are quite a few versions developed as time went on. If I remember correctly it is based on rise and fall phenomenon.
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    Quote Originally Posted by babe View Post
    What she chooses is her choice and we should respect it as a part of her individuality. GO ADELADY! Isn't your tag line a bit of self expression and should be taken as such?
    Babe

    That would be true if it were a philosophy forum. But it is not. It is a science forum. Not only that, but Adelady is one of its leaders. I say that with deep respect, because she, like Lynx, is one of those who has an excellent knowledge of science and normally communicates very good science. Such leaders IMHO have a duty of accuracy.
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by babe View Post
    What she chooses is her choice and we should respect it as a part of her individuality. GO ADELADY! Isn't your tag line a bit of self expression and should be taken as such?
    Babe

    That would be true if it were a philosophy forum. But it is not. It is a science forum. Not only that, but Adelady is one of its leaders. I say that with deep respect, because she, like Lynx, is one of those who has an excellent knowledge of science and normally communicates very good science. Such leaders IMHO have a duty of accuracy.
    Yes I understand, I hope I did not interrupt in anyway, I had a little information on the game and wanted to share. I do agree with your argument and support it.
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