This WindowView is a holistic look … that’s a ‘big picture’ view. This isn’t a Twighlight Zone treatment of reality. But if you stop to look at what both the science data and scriptural texts say, it may strike you as something odd is happening these days. Scientists are frightened by the prospects of our Earth’s life support systems are spinning off into an unbalanced state. Food webs and ecological relationships may be dynamic, but what if conditions go so off course that a recovery is marginal or even impossible. That, today, is a reality.
For the reader of Scripture there is a storyline where in a final segment of time, many things hit end time events that in themselves seem part of natural scenarios, including: famines, earthquakes, and events described as birth pangs (leading us out of this current era and into the next).
On Thursday, July 14, 2011, Darryl Fears published an article in the Washington Post concerning the loss of predators in the wild. The article starts with: “The decline of large predators such as big cats, wolves, sharks and giant whales may be “humankind’s most pervasive influence on the natural world,” causing prey animals to swell in population and throw food chains out of balance, a new report says. Humans have touched off the world’s latest mass extinction, according to the report, published Thursday in the journal Science, and the consequences are being felt on land and in water systems as large predators vanish.”
WindowView contains a number of articles related to ‘warning signs’ and ‘storm warnings’ for the times we live in. Further, these buttress the notion that all the data and denial over climate change is just a tip of an iceberg of woes that go to global changes. Narrow-sighted minds focus just on climate, discerning people step back to see the awesome and monolithic effects of cumulative changes sweeping the globe. What if predators aren’t there in the wild to balance out the natural dynamic that has given us stable ecosystem relationships?
Fears states: “Recent research suggests that the disappearance of these animals reverberates further than previously anticipated,” says the report, “Trophic Downgrading of Planet Earth.” In addition to creating an overabundance of prey, the dwindling number of predators contributes to the spread of disease, wildfires and invasive species. The decline of wolves in Yellowstone Park is cited as an example of what can happen. Elk and deer in the park once flourished on willow trees and saplings, threatening a crucial part of the forest on which other creatures rely.”
“The report also mentions the slaughter of lions and leopards by hunters and herders in parts of sub-Saharan Africa. As a result of the killings, disease-carrying olive baboons have thrived without their top predators and inched closer to food crops and people.”
Changes are not merely limited to Earth’s land surface.
“The decimation of sharks along the U.S. Atlantic Coast has allowed their main prey, the cow-nosed ray, to proliferate and dine heavily on the threatened Chesapeake Bay oyster.”
And one impact brings other consequences … this is why change is a matrix of events and not simply one cause and one consequence … there are cascades of consequences we see today:
“A reduction of big herbivores such as buffalo and wildebeest in East Africa through hunting is also a problem, the report says. Their demise has led to increases in plants that fuel giant wildfires in the dry season.”
Our point here at WindowView is taking in the broader view and thus appreciating changes humans are seeing around the globe. The effects become integrated into significant consequences!
Fears’ article notes: “Other studies have examined the collateral damage caused by the near-extinction of large predators and herbivores. But the report in Science is the first to tie together the impact on land animals as well as salt and freshwater marine life, … .
Much of the science in this area of study has focused on the threat to life at the bottom of the food chain, theorizing that small animals and plants are important because so many creatures rely on their survival.
Although “bottom-up” research is fundamental and important, the report says, “top-down” research deserves wider consideration “if there is to be any real hope for understanding and managing the workings of nature.”
The report acknowledges that top-down research of the food chain is difficult to conduct, noting that it can take decades to measure the effects of the disappearance of large predators.
“The irony . . . is that we often cannot unequivocally see the effect of large apex consumers until after they have been lost” and the ability to restore the species has also been lost, the report says.
“Large predators, or apex species, include animals that people adore, such as otters, and others not so popular, such as vultures.
“On the Pacific Coast, from Alaska to the southern tip of California, sea otters were hunted in the 1900s to near-extinction for their pelts. Their absence started a chain of events that nearly eliminated the kelp forests that nurture all manner of marine life on the coast.
“Sea otters feed on sea urchins, which dine on kelp. Without otters, the sea urchin population exploded. The kelp forest started to disappear. When sea otter populations elsewhere were re-introduced to a few areas along the coast, the kelp started to rebound.
“A telling consequences of the absence of large predators can be found on the Scottish island of Rum, where wolves have been gone for more than 250 years and red deer thrive, the report says. The once forested island is now treeless.”
In an era of social, economic and national crises, the impacts and consequences in nature go on without close attention. A global response to natural systems would be needed and until humanity can corporately deal with global issues, Earth’s infrastructure is revealing consequences … indeed, what do we do when the predators are gone?