Developed in the late 60's by British Scientist James Lovelock, the Gaia theory states
that the organic and inorganic components of Planet Earth have evolved together as a single living, self-regulating system. It suggests that this living system has automatically controlled global temperature, atmospheric content, ocean salinity, and other factors, that maintains its own habitability.In other words, everything within this living breathing organism we call Earth is interconnected; make a change in one part of that organism, and those changes will reverberate throughout the system until a new equilibrium is reached. As we now know through the destructive forces unleashed by climate change, that new equilibrium is not necessarily hospitable to existing life, including that of our own species.
As I observed in a post a few years ago, every impact humanity has on the earth, whether intentional or unintentional, has far-reaching ramifications. I was reminded of that fact the other day while reading an article in Scientific American. Entitled Missing Tropical Animals Could Hasten Climate Change, the piece asserts that
the hunting and poaching of tropical animals could change the face of rainforests such as the Amazon, diminishing their ability to store global carbon dioxide emissions by up to 20 percent.The study by scientists at Sao Paulo State University in Brazil presents solid evidence that the heedless activities of humans is exacerbating the almost out-of-control climate change we are already experiencing:
Hunting and poaching threatens 19 percent of all tropical forest vertebrates, with large vertebrates, including frugivores, disproportionately favored by hunters, the study says. As the frugivore population declines—a process called “defaunation”—fewer seeds of carbon-dense trees are spread throughout the forest, study co-author Mauro Galetti, a Sao Paulo State University ecologist, said.These two graphics amply illustrate the problem:
“The result is a new forest dominated by smaller trees with milder woods which stock less carbon,” study lead author Carolina Bello, a Sao Paulo State University PhD student, said in a statement.
The equation is rather simple: killing the animals=reducing our longterm chances for survival.
José Maria Cardoso da Silva, an environmental geography professor at the University of Miami, said many studies, including some of his own research, have been published over the last 15 years showing that big, carbon-dense trees could go extinct without the large animals that spread their seeds.The folly of humanity continues apace.
“We demonstrated that by eliminating the big frugivorous birds, the big trees in the region will move towards extinction,” Silva said. “All studies afterwards have confirmed the trend. (Bello and Galetti’s) paper adds one more step to the chain. It shows that if the big trees go extinct, then the capacity of the forest to store carbon is reduced. If forests cannot store carbon in the way that they usually did, then the negative effects of climate change can be exacerbated.”