2010-08-16 16:07:54New Series Idea: "Species Shifts" Pt. 1
mothincarnate

wow.the.moth@gmail...
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Hi, John thought I might be interested in putting together a series on the effects of climate change on ecology. I was only too happy to put something together. I was thinking of naming the series: "Species Shift: Ecology of a changing climate" and for the first piece, I thought I'd highlight some basics behind ecology before I started looking at examples. Please let me know what you think (and if the titles are any good).

Cheers,

Tim

Part 1: No Species Stands Alone

 

John Donne told us nearly 400 years ago that no man is an island. Likewise, we could argue that no one species is truly free from the need of many others and numerous physical processes. This is the heart of ecology; the study of our home and the various processes that make life as we know it possible.

Most of us have come across a flow diagram that simplifies the cycle of a certain element (most often carbon, fig 1., or nitrogen) through the different spheres. Some have come by trophic webs (see here and here), which tried to represent who eats who, from primary photosynthesising organisms, to top predators.

Basic carbon cycle 

Figure 1. An example of the carbon cycle, including anthropogenic influences

Without the primary producers, who use solar energy to create sugars, there would be little in the way of energy supply to power the biosphere (apart from deep sea vents). Most terrestrial primary producers, however, require many other species to provide fertile, aerated soil, respiration to produce CO2 for photosynthesis (no, increasing CO2 emissions does not help plants, see here and here) and of course, pollinators, to name a few, as well as a number of physical processes that transfer water and nutrients.

All species play a role; however, part of ecological investigation is to determine how important an individual species actually is to its ecosystem.

Where one species is the only pathway for a certain process or is solely responsible for population control of another (where the absence of this species causes radical shift in the biological assemblage) we refer to this species as a keystone species – like the keystone that gives an arch its stability (without which, it would fall apart).

Mumby et al. (2008) for instance, discuss how the removal of one keystone species (due to disease) from the Caribbean coral reef, the sea urchin, Diadema antillarum, resulted in widespread and persistent algal blooms.

It is often believed that the preservation of these keystone species greatly improves an ecosystems resilience to change (Fischer et al. 2006). I mention this because change is occurring.  As many species rely on environmental cues (many of which change in timing as a result of climate change) to initiate different behaviour, currently evolved interspecies relationships will be increasingly altered as a result of anthropogenic climate change.

This has already begun, which has been observed with changes in timing in a huge number of biological and physical response datasets (see Rosenzweig et al. 2008, Amano et al. 2010 and Thackeray et al. 2010).

Over the coming series, I hope to demonstrate many examples of how climate change has and will continue to interrupt many ecological systems. Although some have questioned the value of different species (recently, I read post by a reporter who declared both the Dodo and the Golden Sun Moth as useless, giving the Dodo an incorrect scientific name and demonstrating his ignorance of subsequent ecological studies, read more here), finding keystone species is not always clear (as with the Dodo). Quite often people are rash in making such claims and thus demonstrate that they are unaware of just how important interspecies relationships can be to the overall health of an ecosystem; many of which we too are dependent upon.

Again, the words of Donne ring loud.

For example, currently, around 60% of the world’s crops rely on natural pollination (Traill et al. 2010)! It's pretty staggering that we're provided such an amazing service largely for free by other organisms!

The same goes for a myriad of services that make life as we know it (and as we currently enjoy it) possible. We have had an amazing ride in getting to this point. Without the assistance of many other species, life would be far more difficult and energetic. Imagine having to hand pollinate a crop, treat and pump water thousands of kilometres, produce sugars and proteins vital for survival, or condition the atmosphere. It's also not simply the case of protecting the species that directly assist our activities; for they in turn rely on a whole other cast as well. These are all examples of biological and physical cycles that we are dependent upon and systems that are being altered by our actions.

Climate change is disrupting interspecies relationships and it will be our species that suffers hardship if we were to lose their many services.

 References

Amano, T., Smithers, R. J., Sparks. T. H., and, Sutherland, W. J. 2010. A 250-year index of first flowering dates and its response to temperature change. Proc. R. Soc. B. doi:10.1098/rspb.2010.0291

Fischer, J., Lindenmayer, D. B., and, Manning, A. D. 2006. Biodiversity, ecosystem function, and resilience: Ten guiding principles for commodity production landscapes. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. 4(2): 80-86.

Mumby, P. J., Broad, K., Brumbauch, D. R., Dahlgren, C. P., Harborne, A. R., Hastings, A., Holmes, K. E., Kappel, C. V., Micheli, F., and, Sanchirico, J. N. 2008. Coral reef habitats as surrogates of species, ecological functions, and ecosystem services. Conservation Biology. 22(4): 941-951. doi: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2008.00933.x

Rosenzweig, C., Karoly, D., Vicarelli, M., Neofotis, P., Wu, Q., Casassa, G., Menzel, A., Root, T. L., Estrella, N., Seguin, B., Tryjanowski, P., Liu, C., Rawlins, S., and, Imeson, A. (2008) Attributing physical and biological impacts to anthropogenic climate change. Nature. 453(15):353-357. doi:10.1038/nature06937

Thackeray, S. J., Sparks, T. H., Frederiksen, M., Burthe, S., Bacon, P. J., Bell, J. R., Botham, M. S., Brereton, T. M., Bright, P. W., Carvalho, L., Clutton-Brock, T., Dawson, A., Edwards, M., Elloitt, J. M., Leech, D. I., Roy, D. B., Scott, W. A., Smith, M., Smithers, R. J., Winfield, I. J., and, Wanless, S. 2010. Trophic level asynchrony in rates of phonological change for marine, freshwater and terrestrial environments. Global Change Biology. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2010.02165.x

Traill, L. W., Lim, M. L. M., Sodhi, N. S., and, Bradshaw, C. J. A. 2010. Mechanisms driving change: altered species interactions and ecosystem function through global warming. Journal of Animal Ecology. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2656.2010.01695.x 

 

2010-08-16 18:36:53
Anne-Marie Blackburn
Anne-Marie Blackburn
bioluminescence@hotmail.co...
80.42.219.219

As a bioscience graduate, I'd love to see such a series and even contribute if that's not stepping on anyone's toes. Superimposed on other problems, climate change has the potential to substantially change ecosystems and I don't think people are aware of what all this might imply.

To it's thumbs up from me.

2010-08-16 19:18:17
mothincarnate

wow.the.moth@gmail...
118.210.139.18

Anne-Marie,

Happy for the help. Here's my email wow.the.moth@gmail.com

Fire me an email and tomorrow I'd forward the word document I've been working on. It includes my post list ideas - on which you can contribute and possibly add other sections that are of interest to you. The hope is, after this initial post, to make each following highly focused on one subject - as much as even looking at one really good example (I've completed a section on Magpie Geese and half way through Red Sea Coral).

Should be a fun, informative series and would be good to bounce ideas back and forth.

:-)

 

2010-08-16 20:07:45Great subject and post
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
121.222.17.49
Love the title, communicates the concept of ecology elegantly. Would be great to include a graphic of a trophic web, just to reinforce the point visually. If you can't get hold of a graphic, let me know - I can always create an original graphic if you need it.
2010-08-16 20:22:42
mothincarnate

wow.the.moth@gmail...
118.210.139.18

I've linked to 2 trophic webs - I think they're free to reuse. I like the idea of breaking it up a bit with graphics as well - especially if it's a trophic web that includes our species with a fundamental service we couldn't do without. Pollinators are very important, but probably a little too abstract for most people... I really like the idea of reinforcing ocean web which is collapsing due to unsustainable harvest, but that too is a little too big to be meaningful for most people.

I'll look around :-)

2010-08-17 10:30:16
mothincarnate

wow.the.moth@gmail...
192.43.227.18

Hi again,

I've been looking around - none of the commercial diagrams seem to be any better than the two linked.

If you have time John, feel free to put something together. BTW, I have a vague memory of seeing a carbon cycle on Skeptical science - I'm not sure if I'm right though. If not, I'm happy to link to one elsewhere.

2010-08-17 12:26:55Drawing
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
121.222.17.49

I've done a few of my own diagrams - the carbon cycle is a good example. The other examples of carbon cycle diagrams were just SOOO complex, there was a strong need for a simple, clear diagram to hammer home the point:

So I'd be happy to do a similar, simplified trophic web. Can you either point me to a trophic web you'd like me to render or draw a rough, simplified version yourself and email me the sketch? I don't want it to be too complex - both because it'll be confusing and would take me too long (I don't have much time these days).

2010-08-17 13:45:42
mothincarnate

wow.the.moth@gmail...
192.43.227.18

That's a good carbon cycle. I hear you - the point of this series is to make it something available to all. Those who know enough about the technical side are already convinced by the evidence. The first trophic link I have is pretty complicated (but also has some of the chemicals involved, which is why it shoot out). The second one,  here is probably a good reference web, but it looks rather dull, doesn't clearly demonstrate the most important part - photosynthesis and for the cycle effect is a bit unclear with the recycling. If you could work off that, we could add it as a figure and I could delete the link.

If it is too much, I should be able to do it also (as you know, I've done a lot in the way of graphic design - feel free to tell me that I'm just being lazy! lol)

2010-08-24 20:45:03Impact of global warming
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.29.177

Two bottom-line points that I haven't seen mentioned much:

- At the current rate of warming, 0.1-C per decade, geographical isotherms (lines of constant average temperature) should be moving polewards at the rate of about 6 km per decade.

- Likewise, topographical isotherms (altitude of constant average temperature) should be climbing upwards at about 10 m per decade.

 That means that a tree, in order to remain happy from a temperature point of view, should be hitchhiking 600 meters per year, and climbing 1 meter per year. If they don't (and they won't), the forests won't be happy, and the animals in the forests won't be happy. Ultimately, if we lose our biodiversity, we won't be happy.

And even if trees develop legs or buy bus tickets, there are topographic challenges (mountains), inconvenient oceans, etc.

2010-08-25 09:56:21
mothincarnate

wow.the.moth@gmail...
192.43.227.18

Hi Neal,

As part of the series, would you be interested in doing a post on that? You've made some excellent points - it would be good to spread that out and then explain the consequences. I work with a lot of soil people and they like to say that just because climate zones shift, it doesn't mean that soils will too -  meaning a lot of nutrients, suitable soil types for species of that climate zone etc etc etc.

I was going to do a post on that, but if you're keen, I'm happy to hand that one over.

I discussed similar in a series I did a while ago;

http://mothincarnate.wordpress.com/innovation-is-key-to-the-survival-of-our-society/#wildthings

cheers,

2010-08-25 11:32:48Post on shifting isotherms
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.29.177

Hi mothincarnate,

I wouldn't mind writing something up. But I should warn you: My understanding of biological matters is somewhat idiosyncratic, probably falling into the school of "what every physicist knows about biology". I can get very quantitative on some aspects, and be completely clueless on other aspects.

For example, I can be completely clear on why a 0.1-degree increase in average temperature is like climbing 100 meters in altitude. If I think about it for awhile, I'll be able to figure out how I calculated 6 km polewards. However, I don't have any firm source on how big a range in average temperature can be sustained by a species: that could contribute to a nice zinger of a conclusion. Do you have any sources on that?

Also, I've read in a couple of places (possibly by E.O. Wilson) that it takes about 1 million years to develop a "new" species. But I don't have any sense for where that came from (and obviously it also depends on what you mean by "new".) Do you have any insight on that?

Over the long term, my personal belief is that the most significant impact on our planet due to AGW will be the impact on biodiversity. This is based on an engineering perspective: the more capabilities you take out of a system, the more fragile it is. If we remove 25% of our planet's species over the next 200 years, our planet will be much more susceptible to being sent in a biologically/ecologically unsttable direction. So the question of how fast a change is too fast, depends on the time scale for evolutionary adaptation. How fast can the environment change and still allow maintenance of the same number of species, whilst they adapt around the change?

If you have any sources on these topics you could direct me to, I would appreciate it. But I'm not well educated in biology: Although I was reading Darwin in 8th grade, I really haven't read much biology since then.

 

2010-08-25 11:32:50
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.29.177
2010-08-26 14:12:20
mothincarnate

wow.the.moth@gmail...
192.43.227.18

Certainly a piece on climate zonal shift would be very useful - you shouldn't need much in the way of biological information (Anne-Marie and myself will cover impacts of the changes), but like the piece above, it'll help to "set the scene" on which all the ecological shifts can better rest on a solid foundation. There is a section, for instance, in which I will be discussing ecotherms ability to adapt to climate change (lower latitude will have the hardest time). Movement is the next option - your piece could set up expected shifts (rate etc) plus barriers - which we can then refer to in this piece. The second piece that I've already drafted talks about Magpie geese and how sea level rise will reduce land available (because they cannot move due to nutrient content for currently exploited land being the result of 4000yrs of sediment) - again, the piece will be strengthened by a climate zonal shift explanation.

So yeah, your piece could offer the world platform, the piece above offers the players and the following posts can explain the play. Should be a good set.

I can search around for papers on this if you require. let me know wow.the.moth@gmail.com

Cheers,

Tim

2010-08-27 11:44:53See new thread on Species Shift
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
91.33.114.71
Neal
2010-08-27 12:38:40
mothincarnate

wow.the.moth@gmail...
192.43.227.18
2010-08-28 18:23:22
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
91.33.114.10

mothincarnate,

Take a look at the thread on Species Shift: Shifting Zones

 

Neal

2010-09-12 06:13:17Planning the series: The Ecological Impact of Climate Change
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.46.1

Moth, Anne-Marie and others:

I thought it might be useful if we did some more structured planning & organizing of the material for the series of articles on the ecological impact of climate change. We discussed this offline a bit; but maybe it would be useful to open up the discussion for other input.

I think an easy-to-follow order of articles, and their topics, would look like this:

 

1) The fact of climate change

 - How fast do we expect it to be?

- How does that look to the flora & fauna on the ground? Can they run away from it?

(This would essentially be the article in http://www.skepticalscience.com/thread.php?t=91 )

 

2)  Ecosystems: How species depend on each other

- The general structure of ecosystems.

- The services species provide each other.

- Keystone species:  for the want of a nail ...:

              examples, and what happens when they go.

(This would be based on the article posted above.)

 

3)  Are we going to lose keystone species?

 - Why can't the species adapt/evolve around the climate change? It's changed before...

-  Why can't we protect at least the keystone species?

-  How many species are we going to lose?

 

4)   What are the human implications of the great extinction?

- The human dependence on the planetary ecology.

- Biodiversity and the robustness of the Life-Support system of Spaceship Earth.

- Preserving the designs of evolution (or of the Creator: take your pick): the genetic code will not be enough.

- Life without other creatures: The solitary confinement of the human species.

 

2010-09-18 09:05:53
mothincarnate

wow.the.moth@gmail...
118.210.183.39

Following the initial posts to give some background to ecology, my angle was to was focused case studies, such as direct certain species or ecosystems, to show direct results of climate change on ecology for great impact.

Ideas?

2010-09-18 09:50:34by "the initial posts"
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
91.33.127.130

do you mean what I described directly above? or something else?

the case studies sound like what I describe in 2).

one obvious example is pine beetles

 

 

2010-09-18 12:38:20
mothincarnate

wow.the.moth@gmail...
118.210.183.39

part 1 sounds like what John wanted to do in relation to the ecological series - focusing on the physical side of it, much like climate zonal shift that you've been looking into.

I'm happy to give the intro to ecology (as is drafted above) followed by case studies, Magpie geese/sea level rise, Coral/ocean temp increase and pH, predator:prey/timing:migration etc, insect importance/how climate change impacts them, whale/climate change and iron availability, Biodiversity resilience to change - human impacts lower resilience, developed:developing country risk with climate change.

Anne-Marie will look at Cloud Forests/impact of climate change, and Agriculture/impacts of climate change (possibly also impacts of decreased fossil fuel input as well - Anne-Marie, feel free to contact me about this if you want to battle that too).

Pine beetles are an excellent classic example that someone might want to cover as well.

They would probably fit loosely within parts 2 and 3.

I worry about tackling part 4 - it's easy to sound too melodramatic and detract readers if not done well. I allude to as much in the various subjects, but am not tactful enough to push the dire situation without losing the reader. Graham is an excellent writer in this way and might be able in the coming months group the important messages of the various parts into a conclusion that would suit part 4 (not that I'm pushing Graham to be involved at all - no obligations, just a suggestion).

2010-09-19 02:54:23Part 4
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
91.33.116.246

I think of Part 4 is being more from a science-fiction than melodramatic perspective: How would we feel and think about other animals if we hadn't hadn't seen any for 1000 years? What if we had become masters of genetic engineering principles and technology, but didn't have many working systems (say, only dogs and cats) to see them in action?

 It would be like someone who is an expert in various engineering specifications but had never seen a working system: Wow.

 

2010-09-20 10:26:14
mothincarnate

wow.the.moth@gmail...
192.43.227.18
I'm not sure, if we tackled this series in this way, how part 4 would fit in, other than if it summarised the bulk of the work and drew on how such impacts will effect humanity.
2010-09-23 19:33:45took your suggestions on notepad
jyyh
Otto Lehikoinen
otanle@hotmail...
80.186.135.64

nealjking, but f.e. the "keystone species" is rather difficult a subject. Rather I'd talk about the species that form the structure of an ecosystem, mostly plants, trees for the forest, grasses for the grasslands various algae for wet environments. As plants are the original food source for all but some oceanic hydrothermal vent environments, the discussion on GW effects on plants might be enough.

2010-09-24 05:07:36Decline in Caribou-herds as a possible example?
BaerbelW

baerbel-for-350@email...
93.231.137.175

Hi Folks,

I just happened upon a post in the Manpollo-forums about a new report called A Troubling Decline in the Caribou Herds of the Arctic . This quote sounds as if this might make for an example in your section #2 where formerly attuned species get "out of sync" timing wise:

"As spring arrives earlier and earlier, “the flush of highly nutritious plant growth” has advanced. Yet caribou reproduction and calving are not occurring earlier, meaning the calves are born past the peak of prime forage availability. "

I know that there is a similar example for some songbirds which are in steep decline in Europe because the hatching does no longer fit the availabilty of some insects' larvae for food (if I remember correctly, the data is from the Netherlands. but I unfortunately don't remember the species).

I may be wrong, but I think that folks relate more easily to some endearing animals in order to get points like these across.

Cheers
Baerbel

 

2010-09-25 15:03:39introduction to the series?
jyyh
Otto Lehikoinen
otanle@hotmail...
84.231.23.10

Proposing an introductory text. Tried to link the physical processes of GHE to life via some biochemical facts (unref'd yet).

Life and global temperature: introduction

While the physical foundations of greenhouse effect on the planets in the solar system are well defined (see f.e. Big picture by Dana1981) the earth presents a special case of the greenhouse effect. This is because on planet earth there is an additional element that controls the levels of the greenhouse gases. This element is called life.

As life can only exist on a quite narrow temperature range, the astronomers talk of the habitable zone within a planetary system, the area of which depends on the star the planets are circulating. If the planet in question has too eccentric an orbit it puts the life on it under considerable stress for the wide temperature range for the radiation changes too much on its orbit. Earth, as we know, hosts life because the parameters of its orbit are such that water may stay in a liquid phase over most of its surface. Presence of liquid water (not an oxymoron, frozen water is called ice for short) is the first requirement for life as we know it.

As the earth wobbles along its path in space, this introduces changes that life on it cannot affect. The reason for ice ages, f.e. has been identified as being a result of Milankovich cycles. These cycles alter the amount of liquid water on earths surface, particularly on land, so changes in the amount and the areas of life are to be expected.

"Life consists of carbon, water and assorted elements", (who said that, can't recall?) Many of the recognised greenhouse gases have carbon on them as well so life-processes have an effect on the amount of inorganic carbon on the planet's surface, or where there is life on it, on biosphere.

The ways of life...
Life in general, is a self-replicating phenomenon on  planets containing carbon and water - with some quirks such as sexual reproduction. The variation in life is produced by the imperfections of this replicative process. The imperfections are a result of internal and environmental factors, which there are many. The point of it is, it tries to stay the same, but cannot because of the material world...(and then quickly out of religious matters) Parts of life have stayed nearly the same for a very long time, one such thing is the photosynthetic machinery of plants.

Plants (and blue-green algae aka cyanobacteria) have way to take energy for their growth from a source outside the biosphere (the sun). This capability gives them the metaphorical upper hand over any other organisms on the planet. This capability has been suspected to give rise for the coldest period on the planet (the Huronian Glaciation). Only after the development of oxygen consuming organisms the icy planet warmed up to near the present levels. Most of the current life on the planet is either photosynthetic or users of products of photosynthetic organisms. The users can be further divided to oxygen and food consumers and decayers of matter of photosynthetic origin (f.e. anaerobic bacteria). This introduces a three-way balance of types of life over most of the planet surface.

Three parts of the carbon cycle of life.

1) CO2 to life

This is done by the primary producers of life, plants and photosynthetic bacteria. The machinery they use to change the inorganic CO2 to constituents of life consist of several proteins and light-harvesting molecules. (picture of the whole photosynthetic complex, that is, Photosystems I and II)

As can be seen even simplified image is complex. In fact it is so complex scientists only recently (199x?) managed to accurately describe the structure. Complex structures are not easily preserved, so the machinery is susceptible to many destabilizing influences, such as heat, too low or high salinity, variations in the pH (the acidity-basicity) and even the type of radiation the light-harvesting complex receives. Some boundaries for life to exist can be set by these attributes. (some of those I listed on the runaway greenhouse discussion, have to check those).

The leaves of plants (where this machinery is located) are subject to wide variety of other factors originating from other parts of life. The issue wether a plant can do what it's meant to do depends on other life present in the location it is, the habitat. (and now the story could enter the ecology)


2) life to CO2
This is mainly from biological processes of animals and humans, which is quite uninteresting in respect to global carbon budget... not. The second part of this are the decomposers of matter of plant origin, such as some fungi and soil bacteria.

3) organic carbon to inorganic
the other interesting part of the cycle in addition to 1).  This is mainly done in the terminal ecosystems on various places on earth. By a terminal ecosystem I mean the last organisms eating the last remains of the food disposed in the ecosystem. Then they die and their remains get buried by geological processes. Mainly this happens on anaerobic locations such as bog bottoms and ocean bottom. This process has given the idea for ocean fertilizing with iron. The biochar process also takes from this, if I've understood it correctly, the aim here is to introduce carbon-containing molecules that would decompose in anaerobic conditions but on airy soils they withstand much longer.

the 4th part of the carbon cycle 4) inorganic to CO2 is done by human culture (or volcanoes)

Back to interplay between 1) and 2) and physical processes of earth... (most of modern ecology)

mothincarnate (and others) what do you think? I thought of adding a general chapter on outbreaks of plant diseases and/or pests but that could be on the next one, I don't know.

2010-09-27 13:46:08
mothincarnate

wow.the.moth@gmail...
192.43.227.18

I think this is further away from the original idea.

From what I understood in discussions with John, is that he wished to have a series that looked at the physical response to climate change (ie. changes in weather patterns, glacial melts, climate zones, sea level etc) and the "Species Shifts" series was to look into the the result of physical changes to ecosystems and ecology.

The initial comment above, which was the suggestion for the first post, might be a bit misleading on approach as it was designed more to provide a little background. Beyond that, the focus was highly specific to one example (be it a species or a certain ecosystem) so that the reader doesn't merely get a fanciful guess or general assumption, but a clear look into the concerns of climate change from an ecological point of view, which in turn will have a detrimental effect on our species.

I give a run down of the subjects in the comment dated 18 Sep 2010, 12:38 PM - the Magpie geese and coral pieces having also been drafted at this point.

2010-09-27 17:59:02jyyh: not introductory
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
84.151.57.191

jyyh,

What you've written is interesting, but I don't think it would serve as a good introduction: It's very heavy on biological information, whereas I think we are expecting people to come to this site from a climate-change angle. It would be like jumping into the deep end of the pool head-first.

I am still thinking about a lead-in, as from here: This starts from the direct results of global warming and goes to the most immediate and basic implications for the ecosystems: temperature and relocation considerations. (I have this on back-burner right now, due to an over-dose of work. But I will get to it this weekend.)

I think what you are considering has to do with the limits to what life on Earth can tolerate. This is of interest with regard to what should be considered extreme situations; but probably not an easy way to begin the discussion. 

 

 

 

2010-09-28 18:34:20
jyyh
Otto Lehikoinen
otanle@hotmail...
80.186.128.182

Thank you for comments, not an introductory post then. I read Robert Grumbine's 'Unity of science' before writing that and included as much stuff I could remember that I've not regularly seen. Maybe the headline should be something like "Why the Carbon cycle is so difficult to Model, Part1".  The second part could describe the variations in the enzymes in the different kinds of plants, incorporate some example of nitrogen fixation (Kudzu-plant was proposed elsewhere). This is something that is not very clear to me, as most of the studies have been done after my graduation. The third part could be of the methanogenic bacteria or something such. I'm thinking this like a project updating my knowledge of the carbon cycle. But, it would take quite a while to track the relevant articles on various journals.

The other approach to project future changes in the biotopes would be taking the physical measures that climate models give and setting the physical limits of various kinds of biotopes to exist (as they do now). This approach has a slight fault in that even if ecosystems suffer from climate change they may well invade the neighboring system which has it worse. Very difficult to say what'll happen, and I don't blame the biologists from not taking this approach.

2010-10-04 20:39:11
jyyh
Otto Lehikoinen
otanle@hotmail...
80.186.24.102

Putting this up here too since my computer acts a bit funny at times, this is just some scribbling along the same lines

Some absolute boundaries for life (as we know it) to exist:


Oxygen producers
(from 4 degrees C (some arctic plants and conifers)) to from 7 degrees (other plants , the cost of starting photosynthesis on a low temperature is that the machine gets damaged in lower temps than in other plants...)
C3-plants (45 C (photosystems in the leaves cease to hold together) drop in the increase of activity starts at 30 deg.)
C4-plants (45 C plateau of activity for C3 and C4 begins at 40deg. (all energy goes to regeneration)
CAM-plants (desert plants, survive long periods of 55 C? but with the same plateau as C4 and C3 plants? )
multicellular algae (generally 40 C)
small eukaryotic plankton algae (dinoflagellates (50C ???, important to find out!)
general cyanobacteria (55C Life in hot temperatures)
extremophilic cyanobacteria (75 C Life in hot temperatures)

Oxygen breathers (from -60 to +95)
Protista (small creatures with cell structure of animals)
Arthropods (insects and such) (~-4 - 55 (enzymes start to breakdown)
Amphibia (frogs, -4 to 55.
Fish (-5 to  40-50(nothing big to feed above this))
Reptilia(0-~55(australian lizards))
Aves (-40 (willow grouse) to ~+50 (desert lark)
Mammalia (-60 (polar bear) to ~+50 (desert day dwellers)
aerated soil bacteria (probably 55, I guess more dependent on the water availability)
extremophilic Oxygen breathing bacteria (95, hot springs)

Oxygen using decomposers:
fungi
microfungi
soil bacteria

ends of organic carbon
methanogens ()
bacteria in ocean bottom (up to 150 (vicinity of black smokers))
bacteria in swamp bottom

Man, this is a bit large subject...

Here it looks apparent that raising the areal temperature to about 40 degrees C (day time average, as the relevant organisms here are the plants and algae which try to keep the temp so they can photosynthezise) for an extended period, it will cause a massive dieback of the Permian style i.e. over 80% of multicellular lifeforms will die. Above this temperature the bacterial life will dominate all environments. So that's not interesting from the human point.

Thus the carbon cycle of life is dominated by the relations between plant types, animals and the extent of deoxygenated areas (spreading in many places in the world) The need to determine the response to heat of the dominant species on various biogeographical areas is important. Here again it must be reminded that the dominant species in about 40% of the land area is human by his agriculture and grazing cattle and such. How large the area of the dominance of humans over the oceans is, is harder to define, but since 70% of the fish stocks are fully- or overexlpoited (http://www.fao.org/newsroom/common/ecg/1000505/en/stocks.pdf), this could be interpreted as a reasonable amount, especially as the upmost 50m (where most of the fishing is going on) of the ocean is where about 100% of the photosynthesis is happening... So,  human is the dominating species over 30%*0,4+70%*0,7= ~60% of the earth's surface... and still there are some who say 'we cannot damage the earth, it's too big...' (expletives edited).

So human response accounts (at minimum) about 60% of the overall response to greenhouse effect by nature and man. Nature however doesn't care a swat if someone's cold at nights or winter. By raising the temperature of the earth's agricultural areas above (yet to be determined) a certain limit we are making nights so warm the plants would like to grow in that temperature, however at nights there is no sunlight, and the raising daytime temperature will drop the  agricultural yields above this level. And what of the pests of agricultural products, do these benefit from warming temperatures? As insects (such as the pine beetle) can tolerate higher temperatures than plants, this would seem to be the case. The same goes with fungal diseases which very much like the damp conditions projected for northern latitudes where the temperature is projected to rise to suit for such grains as wheat.

I have to stop for a bit because this is a bit downer.