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Extinction rate is going NUTS!!! But by how much?

Old 03-20-06, 01:09 PM
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Extinction rate is going NUTS!!! But by how much?

Was reading on the huge extinction rate that we humans are to blame for. In one article I read....

Each year as many as 50,000 species disappear. Most die off, Tilman says, because of human activity. "We take natural habitats convert them to agriculture, to suburbia, to roads, to monoculture forestry. We fish the oceans so heavily we literally have these trolling nets that scrape the bottom of the ocean clean," he says.
from http://news.minnesota.publicradio.or..._biodiversity/

But from another article on the same issue and conference....
According to a "Red List" compiled by the World Conservation Union, 844 animals and plants are known to have gone extinct in the last 500 years,
from http://today.reuters.com/news/newsar...ITY.xml&rpc=22

Seems to be a bit of a difference between the two. I forget where I read this, but I read that in a stable environment (no asteroid collision, etc.) the "natural" extinction rate is about 1 per year. 844 over 500 years seems to be not too bad with that. It would be more telling to know how each century breaks down though.
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Old 03-20-06, 01:22 PM
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How many "species" are there out there? 50k/yr seems very extreme unless [maybe] you count genetic mutations that die because they are nonviable in the first place.
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Old 03-20-06, 01:45 PM
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The American Museum of Natural History estimates 99.9% of all species that ever lived are now extinct.

Also, there's no clear way to delineate species. I've seen estimates on the number of plant species go from 287,000 to 14 million.
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Old 03-20-06, 04:22 PM
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Not only that, human beings from the future have invented a time machine, gone back to the time before dinosaurs and caused the 90% extinction that led to the age of the dinosaurs.
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Old 03-20-06, 04:30 PM
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if 99.9% is already extinct, what does a few more really change in the big scheme of things .. i mean .. come on ...
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Old 03-20-06, 05:04 PM
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How do I know that each blade of grass in my lawn isn't a separate species.

OMG, every time I mow could be a Holocaust!

I'm informing my wife that my Earth-killing actions must stop! Grow be free, my little green friends.

p.s. I would use the c-man one word answer for the Minnesota Public Radio statistic.
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Old 03-20-06, 05:09 PM
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Read A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING...it shows how little humans actually know...in it the author seriously doubts the 50,000 number, since no one can actually come ANYWHERE near an accurate number of TOTAL species on earth
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Old 03-20-06, 06:15 PM
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read the book (actually listened to it) and it was pretty enjoyable. He has a good writing style.

Besides, if you look at the earth's history, every mass extinction event is followed by a mass speciation event. We just want some new species. These current ones are so boring.
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Old 03-20-06, 06:59 PM
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Originally Posted by kvrdave
Was reading on the huge extinction rate that we humans are to blame for. In one article I read....

from http://news.minnesota.publicradio.or..._biodiversity/

But from another article on the same issue and conference....

from http://today.reuters.com/news/newsar...ITY.xml&rpc=22

Seems to be a bit of a difference between the two. I forget where I read this, but I read that in a stable environment (no asteroid collision, etc.) the "natural" extinction rate is about 1 per year. 844 over 500 years seems to be not too bad with that. It would be more telling to know how each century breaks down though.
-Chuckle- Yeah, I have been quoting the IUCN Red List figures for several years here. The Red List is run by a strong environmental group and that is all they can come up with. At least they are honest and don't make shit up like the wild numbers we see so often. Furthermore, I've read articles which say the Red List has declared some species extinct prematurely which probably are not extinct.

People such as the late Julian Simon and Bjorn Lomborg have been saying for years that the high figures are ridiculous. They have gotten themselves pilloried for such comments yet no one can verify any more than the species that are on the Red List (and some of them are in question).

I've read that the "background' or "natural" extinction rate is 1 to 3 a year but nobody really knows. The Red List's figure of about 1.6 a year is unlikely to be much beyond any "natural" rate and is probably well within it.

It may be very difficult to know whether a spider that no one ever identified in the first place went extinct in the Amazon rain forest but one cannot say it, and thousands more as well, are going extinct without evidence. Yet the doomsayers do this all the time and the media laps it up and regurgitates it back to us in the public without doing any critical evaluation. It's rather disgraceful.

Edited to add: The 844 number didn't seem right to me from memory. So I looked it up and it's actually 784.

http://www.redlist.org/search/search...11&Submit.y=15

The last update of the List was about a year ago. An update is scheduled for May, 2006.

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Old 03-21-06, 06:41 AM
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Originally Posted by movielib
People such as the late Julian Simon and Bjorn Lomborg have been saying for years that the high figures are ridiculous. They have gotten themselves pilloried for such comments yet no one can verify any more than the species that are on the Red List (and some of them are in question).
I have Simon's "The Ultimate Resource 2" and Lomborg's "The Skeptical Environmentalist." They are indeed correct and accurate. That's why the doomsayers hate them so much.

Some doomsayers said that 50% of all species would be extinct by the year 2000. Others said that a million species would be extinct by the year 2000. But in all of those cases, they just made those numbers up out of thin air, with no scientific backing behind them at all. And they turned out to be majorly wrong.
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Old 03-21-06, 06:46 AM
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The Endangered Species Act actually encourages landowners to kill the animals and destroy the habitat.

Landowners don't want endangered animals living on their land, because then the government would take control of the land.

So when landowners find the endangered animals on their land, they kill the animals, and destroy their habitat.
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Old 03-21-06, 06:57 AM
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The Endangered Species Act hurts endangered species.


http://www.environmentprobe.org/Envi...99a_fpost.html

How not to save species

By Elizabeth Brubaker

Nowhere are the perverse incentives of punitive endangered species legislation better illustrated than in the U.S., whose 25-year-old Endangered Species Act (ESA) turned animals once considered assets into liabilities. Land owners who previously loved rare wildlife now fear it.

And with good reason. The discovery of an endangered species has time and again precluded development, farming or logging, causing immediate financial losses and long-term reductions in property values. Too often, landowners protect themselves in the only way they can: Upon encountering endangered species, they "shoot, shovel and shut up."

The ESA's perverse effects are increasingly recognized in government and environmental circles alike. Sam Hamilton, formerly a top official with the Fish and Wildlife Service, notes, "If I have a rare metal on my property, its value goes up. But if a rare bird occupies the land, its value disappears." A leading environmental group, the Environmental Defense Fund, reports that landowners "are afraid that if they take actions that attract new endangered species to their land or increase the populations of endangered species that are already there, their 'reward' for doing so will be more regulatory restrictions on the use of their property." EDF adds: "[T]his fear has prompted some landowners to destroy unoccupied habitats of endangered species before the animals could find it."

North Carolina's Ben Cone is one such landowner. Mr. Cone, a wildlife enthusiast, used to cut his 8,000 acres of pine forest sparingly, clearing a 30-acre block every seven years. His environmentally sensitive management created habitat for 29 endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers. His reward? The government put more than 1,100 acres off-limits to any logging, decreasing the value of his land by more than $1.4-million (all figures in U.S. dollars).

Since Mr. Cone could not afford to let woodpeckers take over the rest of his property, he started clear-cutting. By the time the government agreed to return the use of his property to him in exchange for a four-year delay in logging and a $45,000 contribution to the creation of woodpecker habitat on government land, he had cleared 700 acres. While the agreement relieves pressure on the remaining forest, Mr. Cone still bristles at it: "I bought my own timber back for $45,000 and four years!"

Mr. Cone's response to the ESA is not unusual. As early as 1994, Michael Bean, chairman of EDF's wildlife program, maintained that land owners deliberately harvest their pine trees before they are old enough to attract woodpeckers, even though such premature harvesting reduces the economic benefits of logging. Their actions are "not the result of malice toward the red-cockaded woodpecker, not the result of malice toward the environment. Rather, they're fairly rational decisions motivated by a desire to avoid potentially significant economic constraints."

In the American Northwest, those same rational decisions imperil the northern spotted owl. After the owl's designation in 1990 as a threatened species, loggers scrambled to harvest trees near owls' nests. In 1997, the Fish and Wildlife Service sounded the alarm: "the small landowners of the Northwest have resorted to 'panic cutting' over their fear of federal restrictions to protect owls. It is this category of land owner, in particular, who needs to be provided sufficient assurances of relief so they revert back to their past practices of low-impact forestry."

Tragically, the ESA has failed to protect species. Of the listed species found only on private lands, a mere 3% are improving. Nationwide, despite the enormous sums invested in administering the ESA -- federal and state agencies spent $1.2-billion between 1989 and 1993 alone -- only a handful of species have recovered sufficiently to be removed from the endangered list. Few, if any, of these victories can be attributed to the act.

Not surprisingly, many condemn the ESA. Larry McKinney, director of resource protection for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, is "convinced that more habitat for the black-capped vireo, and especially the gold-cheeked warbler, has been lost in those areas of Texas since the listing of these birds than would have been lost without the ESA at all." He warns, "If the ESA does not begin to provide positive incentives to private land owners, then the act will continue to be ineffective in achieving its goals on private lands, and in fact, may have the opposite effect."

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Old 03-21-06, 11:08 PM
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Originally Posted by grundle
The Endangered Species Act hurts endangered species.

http://www.environmentprobe.org/Envi...99a_fpost.html
Yeah that pretty much works like the elephant thing in Africa. Countries such as Kenya that make killing any elephant under any conditions illegal encourage poaching (because the elephants alive are not worth anything to anyone). Kenya's elephant population has plummeted.

Countries such as Zimbabwe which have transferred ownership of elephants from the government to native tribal groups (upon whose land they live) which can allow elephants to be killed by people who buy licenses to do so (for purposes of sport and/or harvesting ivory) have growing elephant populations. In fact, Zimbabwe now has "too many." The private property rights the tribes have in the elephants make them into wise stewards who preserve their resources by allowing some to be killed while keeping the population high and healthy.

Kenya's "protection" has turned into destruction and Zimbabwe's "destruction" has turned into preservation.

Funny concept with unexpected positive consequences, that private property. Funny concept with unintended negative consequences, that absence of private property. Well, it's unexpected and unintended only for people who don't understand private property and the free market.
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Old 03-23-06, 06:23 AM
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Originally Posted by movielib
Yeah that pretty much works like the elephant thing in Africa. Countries such as Kenya that make killing any elephant under any conditions illegal encourage poaching (because the elephants alive are not worth anything to anyone). Kenya's elephant population has plummeted.

Countries such as Zimbabwe which have transferred ownership of elephants from the government to native tribal groups (upon whose land they live) which can allow elephants to be killed by people who buy licenses to do so (for purposes of sport and/or harvesting ivory) have growing elephant populations. In fact, Zimbabwe now has "too many." The private property rights the tribes have in the elephants make them into wise stewards who preserve their resources by allowing some to be killed while keeping the population high and healthy.

Kenya's "protection" has turned into destruction and Zimbabwe's "destruction" has turned into preservation.

Funny concept with unexpected positive consequences, that private property. Funny concept with unintended negative consequences, that absence of private property. Well, it's unexpected and unintended only for people who don't understand private property and the free market.

Yep.

Farming animals makes their population get bigger.

So it's weird that most countries that are allegedly trying to save the elephant have outlawed elephant farming.
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Old 03-23-06, 06:01 PM
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Originally Posted by grundle
The Endangered Species Act actually encourages landowners to kill the animals and destroy the habitat.

Landowners don't want endangered animals living on their land, because then the government would take control of the land.

So when landowners find the endangered animals on their land, they kill the animals, and destroy their habitat.
More endangered species craziness:

http://www.opinionjournal.com/cc/?id=110008128

Of Mice and Men
A tiny rodent is the hottest political issue in Colorado.

BY STEPHEN MOORE
Thursday, March 23, 2006 12:01 a.m. EST

DENVER--Here in Colorado, the hottest political issue of the day may not be the war in Iraq or the out-of-control federal budget, but rather the plight of a tiny mouse. Back in 1998, a frisky eight-inch rodent known as the Preble's meadow jumping mouse gained protective status under the 1973 Endangered Species Act (ESA). What has Coloradans hot under the collar is that some 31,000 acres of local government and privately owned land in the state and stretching into Wyoming--an area larger than the District of Columbia--was essentially quarantined from all development so as not to disrupt the mouse's natural habitat. Even the Fish and Wildlife Service concedes that the cost to these land owners could reach $183 million.

What we have here is arguably the most contentious dispute over the economic impact of the ESA since the famous early-'90s clash between the timber industry and the environmentalist lobby over the "endangered" listing of the spotted owl in the Northwest. That dispute eventually forced the closure of nearly 200 mills and the loss of thousands of jobs. Last week the war over the fate of the Preble's mouse escalated when a coalition of enraged homeowners, developers and farmers petitioned the Department of the Interior to have the mouse immediately delisted as "endangered" because of reliance on faulty data.

The property-rights coalition would seem to have a fairly persuasive case based on the latest research on the mouse. It turns out that not only is the mouse not endangered, but it isn't even a unique species.

The man who is almost singlehandedly responsible for exposing the truth about the Preble's mouse is Rob Roy Ramey, a biologist and lifelong conservationist, who used to serve as a curator at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Mr. Ramey's research--published last year in the peer-reviewed journal Animal Conservation--concluded that the Preble's mouse "is not a valid subspecies based on physical features and genetics." The scientist who conducted the original research classifying Preble's as unique now agrees with Mr. Ramey's assessment. Even scientists who defend extending the mouse's "endangered" status admit that it is 99.5% genetically similar to other strains of mice.

Nor is the mouse on the road to extinction. "The more people look for these mice, the more they find. Every time scientists do a new count, we find more of the Preble's mouse," Mr. Ramey says. It's now been found inhabiting twice as many distinct areas as once thought. These are mice, after all, and the one thing rodents are proficient at is breeding. The full species of the meadow jumping mouse, far from being rare, can be found over half the land area of North America.

"The federal government has effectively shut off tens of millions of dollars of economic development," complains coalition spokesman Kent Holsinger, "based on saving a species that we now know doesn't even exist." But green groups and Department of Interior bureaucrats, who regard the ESA as a sacred pact--the modern-day equivalent of Noah's Ark, as former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt called it--pledge to fight any change in status.

Not surprisingly, Mr. Ramey has been accused of being "dishonest," a "whore for industry" and a "shill for the Bush administration." Under intense political pressure from environmental activists, he was removed from his curator's job at the museum. "I've been nearly stampeded by a herd of agitated elephants in Africa and suspended from some of the highest cliffs in North America, but nothing prepared me for the viciousness of the attacks from the environmentalist lobby," he tells me.

Meanwhile, the Preble's mouse continues to impose huge costs on local communities. One water district in Colorado was recently required to build two tunnels for the mice under a man-made pond to spare the critters the inconvenience of having to scurry around it. Regulators even asked local officials if it would be feasible to grow grass in the tunnels for the mice, which was only slightly less absurd than padding the mouse thoroughfares with red carpet. The extra cost to the water project to make it mouse-friendly? More than $1 million. The Fish and Wildlife Service also has the authority to assess penalties on property owners if they even inadvertently spoil mouse habitat. Owners can even be fined if their cats do what cats do: chase and apprehend mice.

Because of preposterous regulations like there, many land owners resort to extreme measures. A comprehensive 2003 survey found that more than one in four land owners impacted by the Preble's mouse regulation "admitted to actively degrading habitat following the species listing in 1998." This is often precisely what happens in these situations: Because most of 1,500 or so species that have been listed as threatened since 1972 are anything but, people have no respect for the designation and attempt to force the species away from their land. For truly endangered species, the ESA is a disaster.

Many of these land owners have been so strong-armed by federal bureaucrats that they have come to believe--with good reason--that the original and widely supported intent of the ESA has been subverted into a back-door means to slam the brakes on economic development. "It's a cost-free way for the government and the greens to impose land-use control on property owners," says R.J. Smith, an ESA expert at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Therein lies the crux of the problem. The law tries to achieve the societal policy goal of saving species from extinction by imposing all of the costs on a hapless few. House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo has sensibly proposed reforms that allow land owners to get fair compensation from the government if their land is depressed in value due to a wetlands or endangered species designation. That seems equitable: If society wants to preserve habitat for the common good, then the cost should be borne by all taxpayers, not individual land owners, who would no longer regard endangered species as an economic plague on their property.

If anything good can come out of the Preble's mouse fiasco in Colorado, it will be that it has awakened Congress to the reality that the ESA isn't just failing property owners but the very irreplaceable species it was designed to protect.
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Old 03-23-06, 11:36 PM
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That article makes me angry. I would willingly destroy the habitat of any animal found on my property that was suddenly considered "endangered." It is the only way to keep from getting screwed. Great idea about having the government pay for the loss of property value. It might get them to finally wake up.

And let's face it, when there are mice and they inhabit 31,000 acres....they aren't endangered.
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Old 03-24-06, 09:17 AM
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Originally Posted by movielib
More endangered species craziness:

http://www.opinionjournal.com/cc/?id=110008128
Yes. Another "unintended consequence" of the Endangered Species Act.

So the animal was never actually endangered. It's not even a unique species.

You'd think that the environmentalists would be happy about that.

But they aren't happy. They are angry.

That reveals their true agenda. They don't care about that speices. Instead, they want an excuse to take away people's property rights.

Environmentalists always need to have some kind "crises" going on, so they can use it as an excuse to take away people's freedom. That's why they love Paul Ehrlich (despite the fact that he is always wrong), and hate Julian Simon and Bjorn Lomborg (despite the fact that they are always right).

Now to anyone here who thinks that I'm wrong, please cite one leftist environmentalist website that is critical of Paul Ehrlich. No matter how wrong he is, they never criticize him. On the contrary, the more wrong he is, the more they love him. They give his books 5 star reviews at amazon. They invite him to give speeches. They give him 6 figure grants and awards. That's because they need "crises." They are not interested in accuracy.
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Old 03-24-06, 09:20 AM
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Originally Posted by kvrdave
And let's face it, when there are mice and they inhabit 31,000 acres....they aren't endangered.
That's true.

But the political definition of "endangered" is very different than the scientific definition.
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Old 03-24-06, 05:49 PM
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Each year as many as 50,000 species disappear. Most die off, Tilman says, because of human activity. "We take natural habitats convert them to agriculture, to suburbia, to roads, to monoculture forestry. We fish the oceans so heavily we literally have these trolling nets that scrape the bottom of the ocean clean," he says.
According to a "Red List" compiled by the World Conservation Union, 844 animals and plants are known to have gone extinct in the last 500 years,
The wording of the first snip points to an upper bound estimation. To arrive at that, you examine a small area of a threatened biome with extremely localized specie population, say an acre of rainforest and look for new species. After getting a number like 10 unique specie per square mile or so, you then calculate how many similar square miles of habitat have been destroyed to arrive at a number. The upper limit quoted should be their upper 1 sigma deviation from their estimate.

The lower number comes from when a known specie has a confirmed range and is confirmed completely dead across that range. A specie shouldn't be on the lower quote list unless it has been 100% verified as dead. The dodo would go here for example, as this method favors large and novel life forms that are easy to count (compared to ants or something)

The problem with the lower number is that when many square miles of highly specialized habitat like rainforest or coral reefs are wiped out, no one has a clue just what got killed there and if any more exist anywhere else, so it's just educated guesswork. However, rejecting those forcasts outright in favor of the lower number basically denies the possibility that uncounted species have been wiped out, which is kind of a stupid assumption.

So yeah, we haven't confirmed an extinction rate much higher than in the absolute "this critter is definitely dead" sense, but the vegas odds are pretty good that yes, we're causing a mass extinction by trashing rainforests and such.
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Old 03-24-06, 06:20 PM
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Doesn't that assume that an animal in the rainforrest can't adapt to other areas? Perhaps they can live in K-Mart signs just as the spotted owl does.

But the idea that 5 million species have died out in the last hundred years? I don't think anyone in Vegas would take those odds, either.
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Old 03-24-06, 06:49 PM
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1. It is an assumption based on species distribution. For example If you calculate that in the amazon, beetle species have a distribution on average of 10 square miles, and theres 3 different types of species on average that coexist, then if you burn down 100 square miles for slash n' burn farming, then about 30 species of beetle likely go extinct. Beetles aren't exactly known to outrun brushfires. And shrubbery doesn't really stand a chance if we substitute that for the bettle mentioned above. So yeah, some birds will probably fly off and start a nest elswhere, but no, not everything will. Also even though individual animals may pick up and move, they may not be able to sustain a genetically viable population after their habitat is destroyed. The spotted owl isn't a very good example of what species are typically able to do as far as adaptability goes. It flies and it has a big enough brain to maybe learn how to live where it flew to. Plants aren't so smart or mobile, so they just get to go extinct. So yes it assumes that an critter in the rainforest can't adapt because in the majority of cases, it can't adapt to it's entire habitat wiped out by a fire.

As to the 50000 number, nobody should take those vegas odds because they're based on a high estimate, meaning about 32% odds of the number being equal or higher if the study is statistically thurough and unbiased. Add in unknown factors and author bias, and that number becomes more unreasonable, although not impossible because of the unknowns. However, from glancing at some other things said, I'd put the low estimate of that study down to maybe 5000 species a year. If the author indeed counted his shrubs and beetles correctly, thats still well into mass extinction territory.

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Old 03-24-06, 10:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Holy Jackson
1. It is an assumption based on species distribution. For example If you calculate that in the amazon, beetle species have a distribution on average of 10 square miles, and theres 3 different types of species on average that coexist, then if you burn down 100 square miles for slash n' burn farming, then about 30 species of beetle likely go extinct. Beetles aren't exactly known to outrun brushfires. And shrubbery doesn't really stand a chance if we substitute that for the bettle mentioned above. So yeah, some birds will probably fly off and start a nest elswhere, but no, not everything will. Also even though individual animals may pick up and move, they may not be able to sustain a genetically viable population after their habitat is destroyed. The spotted owl isn't a very good example of what species are typically able to do as far as adaptability goes. It flies and it has a big enough brain to maybe learn how to live where it flew to. Plants aren't so smart or mobile, so they just get to go extinct. So yes it assumes that an critter in the rainforest can't adapt because in the majority of cases, it can't adapt to it's entire habitat wiped out by a fire.

As to the 50000 number, nobody should take those vegas odds because they're based on a high estimate, meaning about 32% odds of the number being equal or higher if the study is statistically thurough and unbiased. Add in unknown factors and author bias, and that number becomes more unreasonable, although not impossible because of the unknowns. However, from glancing at some other things said, I'd put the low estimate of that study down to maybe 5000 species a year. If the author indeed counted his shrubs and beetles correctly, thats still well into mass extinction territory.
I've never seen anyone even begin to attempt to explain those high estimates so congratulations for that. However, I've got a few of problems.

How can anyone possibly know what the range the types of species we are talking about is? How do we know they aren't all over the place? We haven't even ever identified most of these species.

If the range of these species is so small, then how can the "natural" or "background" extinction rate for the entire Earth be said to be 1-3 (or something like that) a year? Are there never fires in the rain forest? I would imagine one of those could wipe out hundreds or thousands all by itself if so many entire species are so localized. This would be without human intervention at all. What about volcanos and floods etc.? Natural disasters are often on the scale many times what humans are even capable of, much less deliberately do. It seems the "natural" rate must be quite high if these species are confined to ten square miles or something like that. The doom-and-gloom people want to minimize what they say nature does and maximize what they say humans do.

In any event, I find it difficult to accept much more than what can actually be proved (such as the IUCN Red List). Whenever I have commented on this subject I have conceded that some species could become extinct without our ever knowing, possibly without our ever knowing they even existed. But I still need to see some proof beyond what amounts to models and guesswork.
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Old 03-24-06, 10:38 PM
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Originally Posted by kvrdave
I forget where I read this, but I read that in a stable environment (no asteroid collision, etc.) the "natural" extinction rate is about 1 per year. 844 over 500 years seems to be not too bad with that. It would be more telling to know how each century breaks down though.
I don't know any numbers, but like you said, the telling statistic would be a breakdown of the last hundred years. Of that 844, I'd be willing to bet that a large percentage happened in the last 150 years.
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Old 03-27-06, 04:10 PM
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Originally Posted by movielib
I've never seen anyone even begin to attempt to explain those high estimates so congratulations for that. However, I've got a few of problems.

How can anyone possibly know what the range the types of species we are talking about is? How do we know they aren't all over the place? We haven't even ever identified most of these species.

If the range of these species is so small, then how can the "natural" or "background" extinction rate for the entire Earth be said to be 1-3 (or something like that) a year? Are there never fires in the rain forest? I would imagine one of those could wipe out hundreds or thousands all by itself if so many entire species are so localized. This would be without human intervention at all. What about volcanos and floods etc.? Natural disasters are often on the scale many times what humans are even capable of, much less deliberately do. It seems the "natural" rate must be quite high if these species are confined to ten square miles or something like that. The doom-and-gloom people want to minimize what they say nature does and maximize what they say humans do.

In any event, I find it difficult to accept much more than what can actually be proved (such as the IUCN Red List). Whenever I have commented on this subject I have conceded that some species could become extinct without our ever knowing, possibly without our ever knowing they even existed. But I still need to see some proof beyond what amounts to models and guesswork.
There are definitely a lot of biases in such a comparison. The first one that comes to mind is comparing a fossil record against a non fossil record. Fossils tend to bias themselves during formation to critters with hard bits that find a way to quickly get themselves buried in sediments with a lack of oxygen, so rainforests tend to leave little evidence of past species. Also unfortunate is that the proof you ask for would reqiure a LOT of research funding for very thurough counting in many different areas. Since funding in many programs is being cut back in lieu of a new shuttle, thats impossible at the time being, and likely no one would have got the money for it anyway. I really wouldn't want to send my tax dollars to 10000 scientists to fan out and count bugs for 10 years. Whether this is a mass extinction or not will remain TBD for about a million years or so until someone or something can go back and look at the rock strata and see if there is a sharp reduction in fossil species from rocks that will be forming from today's sediments.

Personally, I'd rather err on the side of caution and see some more resources go into pollution control and renewable resources around the world to slow down deforestation and such, but how much and where to prioritize are important to weigh against human needs too. Eh.

I really just wanted to explain that a little because I think a lot of people would benefit from knowing the inner workings of those kinds of studies that the press sensationalizes.
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Old 03-28-06, 08:10 AM
  #25  
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