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Thread: Why do we try saving species near extinction?

  1. #1 Why do we try saving species near extinction? 
    Forum Ph.D. Raziell's Avatar
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    These species failed, why prolong their inevitable demise?

    I read all the time about species nearing extinction, why do we put so much effort into trying to save them? Practical purposes, guilt from being the cause of it? What is human motivations for keeping dying species on "life support"?


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  3. #2  
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    in cases where natural selection has decided that the genes represented in a particular species are a failure in their environment, the tendency of humanity to attempt to save the species is quite unexplainable.

    however in the case of species such as most whales, polar bears, lions, and elephants where hunting and human caused climate change are the cause of their endangerment, it may simply be a matter of guilt. in an evolutionary perspective, killing off an entire species equates to completely destroying genetic information. wheras killing off or adding to members of the species has little impact on the genetic information. so in our base psyche we cannot rationalize our changing the world so that we may propogate more effectively if it means killing off an entire species.


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  4. #3  
    Forum Isotope Bunbury's Avatar
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    Guilt may be part of it, also aesthetics. A world without whales or polar bears may make no noticeable difference to the quality of life of nearly all of us (Inuits might disagree), but the knowledge that we are bequeathing a world without whales, polar bears, tigers, rhinos, elephants, beavers, frogs, ivory billed woodpeckers and black footed ferrets to future generations of humans certainly means we are bequeathing a less beautiful world than the one we inherited.

    But if we ignore the intangible losses and concentrate on the actual cash value (which is what the OP seemed to asking about), the economic value of all "ecosystems services" to humans has been estimated to be $33 trillion per year.* These services includes climate regulation, water purification and recycling, nutrient recycling, soil enrichment, waste detoxification, pollination, lumber production, food, livestock feed, and biomass fuel. Loss of a few species here and there may seem irrelevant to the value of the system as a whole, but in fact we don't know, for example, the effect on marine ecosystems if we kill all the whales. Nor would we ever know what diseases might be controlled or cured by pharmaceuticals derived from plants or fungi that we allow to go extinct. 85% of all antibiotics are derived from ascomycota fungi. The range of pharmaceuticals derived from wild plants is huge.

    * Costanza et al., Nature 387:253-60 (1997)
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  5. #4  
    Forum Professor jrmonroe's Avatar
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    Saving species is a nice gesture, but their extinction is mostly a symptom of changes in their environment. We should be rehabilitating their environment so they can naturally survive.
    Grief is the price we pay for love. (CM Parkes) Our postillion has been struck by lightning. (Unknown) War is always the choice of the chosen who will not have to fight. (Bono) The years tell much what the days never knew. (RW Emerson) Reality is not always probable, or likely. (JL Borges)
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  6. #5  
    Time Lord
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    The issue becomes more interesting where similar environments were isolated, so that while introduction of foreign species kills off a few unique species, diversity increases and naturalized species evolve under conditions different from their parent populations.

    The Americas & Oceania relate to Asia & Europe in that way.

    I personally have no qualms about planting bamboo and blackberry in the boring forests of British Columbia. It's just beginning to fill in after the ice age.... why not speed things up?
    A pong by any other name is still a pong. -williampinn
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