Jump to content

Do We Need So Many Other Animals on Earth?


Dekan
 Share

Recommended Posts

How many species would be required to create a bare bones ecosystem capable of supporting Human life? Could it be done with 1,000 species? 2,000? 5,000?

I'm fairly sure i have around a 1,000 species of bacteria in my gut and like number on my skin, so that provides a good starting point.

 

And to Dekan who, for some peculiar reason thinks humans are superior, please ponder this: if we ceased to exist the vast majority of bacteria would never notice. If they ceased to exist that would be the end of humanity.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Species are kind of tricky to apply to bacteria, in terms of distinguishable phylotypes the last sequencing publication I remember put it slightly below 400 for the intestine flora and around 100 for skin IIRC. However, these habitats are very specialized ones. A minimum would probably involve chemoautolithotrophic bacteria. Depending on habitat, technically a single well-suited bacterium could easily survive (evolution would take care of diversity over time, however).

 

And to Dekan who, for some peculiar reason thinks humans are superior, please ponder this: if we ceased to exist the vast majority of bacteria would never notice. If they ceased to exist that would be the end of humanity.

Indeed.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

All because you have that many, doesn't mean you require that many. Most of the strains of bacteria are in competition with one another. How many of those species could be removed and thier purpose still be fullfilled? Most of the species on Earth are window dressing, they could be removed and the ecosystem would still function. They aren't vital to the overall operation of the ecosystem.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This does, obviously, include humans. As already said, minimum requirements are bacteria (composition depends on habitat, e.g. availability of electron acceptors, temperatuer, light etc). The rest are window dressings, as you put it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's also quite true that humans carry around more bacterial cells than human cells by quite a large factor, you are more bacteria than human :unsure: Almost all if not all animals require quite a large number of comensual bacteria to survive, even some intestinal parasites have positive effects, worms that are parasitical in the human gut give us some protection from allergies, people who do not have them are far more likely to suffer from sever allergies than people who do not. :blink:

 

Is it just me or does google Chrome spell checker suck whale shit from the bottom of the ocean?

 

Let's reframe the question. Say that life isn't common in the universe, but that it's extremely rare.

 

 

This is called the rare Earth theory and to me it would indicate that every species is all the more precious due to the idea that say wolves are only found one place in the entire universe, here and to kill them off or any other complex life form is to destroy something that is irreplaceable in any way much less directly. I often wonder if they will be able to recreate things like woolly mammoths or woolly rhinos and if they do what would they do with them? Stick them in a zoo and let people gawk at them? It seems to be fundamentally flawed idea in many respects. I am a member of an organization that would not support the "rewilding" of America for many reasons but disease and parasites is probably at the top of the list most of the scientists and researchers I know.

 

The main reason things like wolves are extinct in most highly populated areas has little to with them being dangerous to humans more about us competition for the same food supply which is far less true now than when the wolves were common.

 

In WV where I am from coyotes have been "reintroduced" into the mountains to cure the over population of deer but domestic pets are far easier prey and are suffering badly and the deer continue to prosper. It is rumored that Rattle snakes are being dropped from hellecopters too but that is yet another conspiricy theory :rolleyes:

 

Now let's say that we find an Earth like planet orbiting within the habitablezone of a Sun like star and it's completely lifeless. That for whatever reason, life never developed on it. How many species would be required to create a bare bones ecosystem capable of supporting Human life? Could it be done with 1,000 species? 2,000? 5,000?

 

I'm not sure how many species it would take but it would take lots of time, probably hundreds of thousands of years if not millions to prepare a lifeless planet to be habitable by any complex life forms like those on the earth and what it would take is lots of bacteria of many greatly diverse forms to even provide oxygen and clear out the noxious chemicals of a lifeless world, being habitable requires a hugely complex ecosystem of just bacteria, complex life is the thinnest top layer of tremendous depth of life on earth.

Edited by Moontanman
Link to comment
Share on other sites

All because you have that many, doesn't mean you require that many. Most of the strains of bacteria are in competition with one another. How many of those species could be removed and thier purpose still be fullfilled? Most of the species on Earth are window dressing, they could be removed and the ecosystem would still function. They aren't vital to the overall operation of the ecosystem.

 

 

I addressed this in my reply to you above. Species diversity is inadequately understood to verify your claim, loss of ecosystem function is incremental and cumulative as you remove species and multiple species performing similar functions buffers against fluctuations in environment. Diversity is not "window dressing".

 

The species problem is particularly acute in prokaryotes, as the biological species concept (Mayr papers) fails to detect independently evolving lineages as reproductive isolation is not present between them. Application of a general lineage concept (De Quieroz Syst. Biol. 2007) allows for the use of secondary characters to distinguish metapopulations and seems a likely way forward for characterizing prokaryote diversity. When it all boils down, there's dozens of species concepts and even more methods of detecting them, which is one of the key reasons for the existence of the taxonomic impediment.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I cannot understand how anyone would want to get rid of nature and substitute the maximum number of humans possible even if it was feasible to do so. I love to hike in the wild, camp, and just take in wild areas, it is good for the mind to see nature at it's finest.

 

I like to imagine orbiting habitats but in my wildest dreams I never leave out a huge area of what would appear to be a very diverse natural section in the habitat, in my imagination this section would have to be much larger than the space occupied by humans. A wild and diverse nature is part of who we are, to deny this denies our humanity, we are not separate from nature we are part of it.

 

I hope humans never get to the point that they can do with out nature, to live your entire life in an artificial habitat with nothing but humans would be my idea of hell.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, to each his own.

 

Personally, my idea of heaven would be an Earth which we'd transformed into a huge, artificial, planet-wide city.

 

In this city, we'd have nothing but civilised human beings, living peaceful lives, researching in libraries, scientific laboratories, and astronomical observatories. There'd also be art-galleries (for those who like that stuff). And everyone would get their groceries from abundant supermarkets with good parking places.

 

As for all the old obsolete animals and plants, we'd preserve a few in Parks. But the Parks would contain only pretty flowers, trees, and nice harmless animals like ducks on ponds. Definitely no nasty things eating each other.

 

That, to my mind, represents the future Earth towards which our Science is leading us. Who can seriously deny it would be a better place?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, to each his own.

 

Personally, my idea of heaven would be an Earth which we'd transformed into a huge, artificial, planet-wide city.

 

In this city, we'd have nothing but civilised human beings, living peaceful lives, researching in libraries, scientific laboratories, and astronomical observatories. There'd also be art-galleries (for those who like that stuff). And everyone would get their groceries from abundant supermarkets with good parking places.

 

As for all the old obsolete animals and plants, we'd preserve a few in Parks. But the Parks would contain only pretty flowers, trees, and nice harmless animals like ducks on ponds. Definitely no nasty things eating each other.

 

That, to my mind, represents the future Earth towards which our Science is leading us. Who can seriously deny it would be a better place?

 

 

I can seriously deny it would be a better place, it sounds like hell on earth to me but then I grew up in a very rural area, not in a city but even the people I know that did grow up in a city still like the "great outdoors" possibly humans who grow up in a an enclosed environment would feel the way you do? I have to ask, why do you dislike the wild so much?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I can seriously deny it would be a better place, it sounds like hell on earth to me but then I grew up in a very rural area, not in a city but even the people I know that did grow up in a city still like the "great outdoors" possibly humans who grow up in a an enclosed environment would feel the way you do? I have to ask, why do you dislike the wild so much?

 

 

Thanks Moontanman. I note that you grew up in a very rural area. If you don't mind my asking: are you still living in a rural area? Or are you (as I suspect is probably the case) now living in a city?

 

If you are, I have to ask - why did you move to the city?

Edited by Dekan
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Personally, my idea of heaven would be an Earth which we'd transformed into a huge, artificial, planet-wide city.

 

And us farmers will just magic up crops through the pavement, eh?

 

In this city, we'd have nothing but civilised human beings, living peaceful lives,

 

Unrealistic due to basic human nature. There will always be people who seek to control others, or have authority.

 

 

Definitely no nasty things eating each other.

 

I sincerely hope you're a vegan then. Do you know what happens in stockyards and slaughterhouses to make beef?

 

 

That, to my mind, represents the future Earth towards which our Science is leading us. Who can seriously deny it would be a better place?

 

I'm denying it right now. It sounds abhorrent and depressing. I prefer the country and not inhaling fossil fuel exhaust every time I step outside.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

And we farmers will just magic up crops through the pavement, eh?

Maybe we could grow crops on the roof, so that in essence we'd be living underground.

 

I don't want to live that way either. Dekan, we are a long way from that. I don't think that we are much closer to that now that we were 1000 years ago. Science may be leading us that way, but it will take years just for a world population to be that large. And, when the population grows, there will be more wars. Our extended family has a shared country vacation home. If it was in the middle of a city, we would never travel there.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks Moontanman. I note that you grew up in a very rural area. If you don't mind my asking: are you still living in a rural area? Or are you (as I suspect is probably the case) now living in a city?

 

If you are, I have to ask - why did you move to the city?

 

 

I've never actually lived in a city environment as you describe, i have lived inside city limits but then deer and even alligators were less than 1/4 mile away and wild animals were common even in my yard, that is not the same as the concrete jungle you seem to want. Right now I live outside the city limits in a more suburban area, I would never choose to actually live in a city as you describe.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'll add that My father lived in a rural area and my mother lived close to the city but not directly in it when I was growing up and I loved being away from the city. Ever since I moved into city limits for school and such I have hated being around this many people and not being able to just wander about in the wild and explore the diversity within it. I can't wait until I am out of school and can get a house of my own outside of the city.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ever since I moved into city limits for school and such I have hated being around this many people and not being able to just wander about in the wild and explore the diversity within it.

 

But the "wild" in 21st Century America, has been sanitised of most of the really dangerous wild animals. Like grizzly bears and packs of hungry wolves.

 

These predators would be only to keen to explore the diversity within you.

 

(Your liver, kidneys and intestines would probably be eaten first. These bits are tasty and can be gulped down fast with minimal chewing and gnawing.)

 

If the American countryside was really "wild", as it was in the 18th Century, you might not be so keen to wander around in it. Be thankful you live in modern times!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Another think to consider is that even if some animals don't have a direct impact on humans, they may have an impact on animals which do have a significant impact on our lives. You can't take out pieces of the ecosystem without endangering other species.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Another think to consider is that even if some animals don't have a direct impact on humans, they may have an impact on animals which do have a significant impact on our lives. You can't take out pieces of the ecosystem without endangering other species.

 

 

You're right of course. The whole ecosystem will have to be thoroughly reviewed. Then rationally planned by humans. We'll decide which species are needed, and which can be dispensed with.

 

As I mentioned before, this could well be the role Gaia intends for us humans. After all the aeons of random and chaotic evolution, we are now here to take control, straighten things out, and get the planet properly organised.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You're right of course. The whole ecosystem will have to be thoroughly reviewed. Then rationally planned by humans. We'll decide which species are needed, and which can be dispensed with.

 

As I mentioned before, this could well be the role Gaia intends for us humans. After all the aeons of random and chaotic evolution, we are now here to take control, straighten things out, and get the planet properly organised.

 

But, to be fair, humans may not comprehend a species' true role in the ecosystem. I don't have a specific example, but we may eliminate a species that has an important role in the ecosystem that we haven't discovered yet. I can certainly see where you're coming from and I can understand the logic behind your proposal. But, I'm concerned that our lack of knowledge on a specific species may have ramifications if we decide to eliminate that species.

 

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

But the "wild" in 21st Century America, has been sanitised of most of the really dangerous wild animals. Like grizzly bears and packs of hungry wolves.

 

 

And you are aware that those animals almost never attack humans? Lightning is far more of a hazard, gonna stop lightning?

 

 

These predators would be only to keen to explore the diversity within you.

 

(Your liver, kidneys and intestines would probably be eaten first. These bits are tasty and can be gulped down fast with minimal chewing and gnawing.)

 

If the American countryside was really "wild", as it was in the 18th Century, you might not be so keen to wander around in it. Be thankful you live in modern times!

 

 

Even in the 18th century attacks on humans were very rare, about the same as today, you are afraid of wild animals aren't you? Do you swim in the ocean? Animals, almost every one fear humans, they do their best to not interact with humans, I live near alligators, i have swam with them many times, they try their best to get away from humans, recently a grizzly bear killed man in Yellowstone Park but it was clear she was defending her cubs, not attacking the man to eat him. You are many times more likely to die in a car crash, fall in the bath or be struck by lightning in your own home than be killed by wild animals in the wild. Rats which are a big part of the city you seem to like so much but they are responsable for far more deaths of humans than wild animals. We eleminate snakes becasue we fear them unreasonably but they eat rats, no other animals eats rats as effective as snakes but the rats muliply and bring on diesase that kills millions. Don't fool around with mother nature :rolleyes:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

And you are aware that those animals almost never attack humans? Lightning is far more of a hazard, gonna stop lightning?

 

Yes, I know - but isn't the keyword "almost" never attack? Suppose you're lying in hospital, with half your face chewed off by a Grizzly. Would you be consoled by by being informed that what happened to you, was an extremely rare event?

 

As for the lightning - on a human-controlled planet, we'd have full weather-conditioning. Random lighting strikes would not be permitted. Excess electrostatic charge build-up in the atmosphere would be harmlessly discharged to ground via a planetary network of lightning-rods.

 

 

 

Even in the 18th century attacks on humans were very rare, about the same as today, you are afraid of wild animals aren't you? Do you swim in the ocean? Animals, almost every one fear humans, they do their best to not interact with humans, I live near alligators, i have swam with them many times, they try their best to get away from humans, recently a grizzly bear killed man in Yellowstone Park but it was clear she was defending her cubs, not attacking the man to eat him. You are many times more likely to die in a car crash, fall in the bath or be struck by lightning in your own home than be killed by wild animals in the wild. Rats which are a big part of the city you seem to like so much but they are responsable for far more deaths of humans than wild animals. We eleminate snakes becasue we fear them unreasonably but they eat rats, no other animals eats rats as effective as snakes but the rats muliply and bring on diesase that kills millions. Don't fool round with mother nature :rolleyes:

 

I am afraid of certain animals. Like sharks. I live on the south coast of England, and there aren't any sharks in the sea here. So I often go for a swim in the sea. But I wouldn't, if I knew there was even the possibility of a cruising shark biting me in half.

 

If you swim with alligators, Moontanman, I salute your intrepidity Sir!

 

(PS Apologies for incompetent way I've tried to do selective quotes from your post. I can't get the hang of it. Is there an idiot's guide to doing it?)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

 

 

Yes, I know - but isn't the keyword "almost" never attack? Suppose you're lying in hospital, with half your face chewed off by a Grizzly. Would you be consoled by by being informed that what happened to you, was an extremely rare event?

 

As for the lightning - on a human-controlled planet, we'd have full weather-conditioning. Random lighting strikes would not be permitted. Excess electrostatic charge build-up in the atmosphere would be harmlessly discharged to ground via a planetary network of lightning-rods.

 

 

People almost never fall down in their tubs and die but it still happens far more often than humans get eaten by wild animals, I'm betting that odds of being killed in your hyper city by another human would be far greater than being eaten by wild animals.

 

 

I am afraid of certain animals. Like sharks. I live on the south coast of England, and there aren't any sharks in the sea here. So I often go for a swim in the sea. But I wouldn't, if I knew there was even the possibility of a cruising shark biting me in half.

 

If you swim with alligators, Moontanman, I salute your intrepidity Sir!

 

(PS Apologies for incompetent way I've tried to do selective quotes from your post. I can't get the hang of it. Is there an idiot's guide to doing it?)

 

 

As I said, you are in far more danger at home taking a shower than being eaten by wild animals and if you swim in the ocean then you have exposed your self to the danger of being eaten by sharks. No matter if you are in the south of England or any place else, even freshwater rivers are a danger due to cruising bullsharks. You cannot get away from danger no matter where you go or what you do, and in your mega city, yes even there things like accidents would be far more likely than being eaten by wild animals in a wild place. Alligators where I live are shy reclusive animals, not the ravening monsters you see on TV, as long as people don't feed them they do not see humans as a food source, very few animals really do, Tigers would seem to be the worst habitual human hunters or maybe salt water crocs in Australia (i knew there had to be something bad about Australia, lol) but disease is the worst danger and cities with the rats and such are far more dangerous than the wild not to mention human predators who kill in cities all the time. I would feel far safer walking a back trail in the mountains than walking the back streets of a city at night.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks CharonY, Arete, and Moontanman for your replies, which I've carefully read.

 

This is how I look at it:

 

Human beings are the most valuable animals on Earth. (I know CharonY doesn't subscribe to that, but surely we must be, as no other animals are capable of having discussions like this).

 

We should therefore arrange things on Earth, so that the planet can support as many human beings as possible. That means getting rid of all other animals, except ones we need. These would be, at first, a small number of species, needed for food. Later, these can be dispensed with - as soon as we learn how to make synthetic food from basic raw materials. Plants do that all the time, I'm sure we can too.

 

Moontanman's point about the medicinal potential of other species is valid at present. But future science will let us design our own medicines, without relying on serendipitous discoveries in the Amazon rainforest, or weird cuttlefish.

 

In general, we should treat our planet as a "space-station" for humans to live on. We already do that on a small scale - the currently orbiting International Space Station doesn't have all kinds of other animals running around in it. The Earth shouldn't either - it should be a fitting home for humanity.

 

We shouldn't be concerned with preserving Earth's existing primitive, cruel eco-structure - let's use our human powers to design a bright new civilised one!

 

The problem is your perception of importance and success. Your perception of the importance and success of human beings is based on christian values and not evolutionary fact.

 

 

If the total number of individuals of an animal species, or group of smilar animal species, is what is important then insects would be far more important than humans. The total biomass of insects hugely exceeds the total biomass of humans. We could reasonably conclude that insects are the dominant form of life on Earth.

 

 

Or what about evolutionary longevity of a species or group of related species, is that not an evolutionary indication of succes and importance? Again insects would win hands down. They have existed on Earth for hundreds of millions of years and survived multiple mass extinction events and ice ages etc. Humans and our ancestors have existed for not much more than a million years. And how likely is it that we will continue existing for another million years given what we are doing to our own nest?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Dekan asks a very important and fundamental question.

 

I think Wildlife/Environmental Conservation is a 'religion', and in my opinion, actually all about the spirit and purpose of humanity and not ultimately to do with our own survival (although at this present time it is of course linked to our own survival).

Edited by bombus
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Maybe I want to know what Siberian tiger tastes like.

With only 700 left, we need to breed more of them for consumption.

 

/end Maddox argument

 

No, but really, unless something is keeping things in check, I find it natural that things revolve around dominating species. If humans are dominating, destroying, and so forth, yet this acts as a check-and-balance system for survival and progress, I don't see a problem with it. But the unnecessary destruction of life without attempting to enhance survival and progress is simply a waste of resources, thus not economically worthwhile.

 

I seem to often find the trend that ecologists and conservationists' views are slanted by the grants they receive.

Edited by Genecks
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I seem to often find the trend that ecologists and conservationists' views are slanted by the grants they receive.

 

As this is the field I work in , I can honestly say that I have never encountered this, ever.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.