OOPS! - we lost count...

Peter Rauch anamaria at GARNET.BERKELEY.EDU
Fri Jan 29 20:09:07 CST 1993

and, oops, these two missiles got lost in private mail...
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Date: Thu, 28 Jan 93 20:33:06 -0600
From: Gary R Noonan <carabid at csd4.csd.uwm.edu>
To: anamaria at garnet.berkeley.edu
Subject: Re: OOPS! - we lost count...

Pete Rauch makes a good point as regards the importance of preserving
habitats.  But we have only so much in the way of funds--which habitats will
we preserve.  To make the decision, we need to know more about the organisms
that live in our world.  There are approximately perhaps--who has an accurate
count--1.2 million described species of animals.  However, some workers feel
that there may be millions or tens of millions of unknown insects.  E. O. Wilson
had an interesting note in the journal Science some months ago.  The note showed
a small vertebrate and a much larger ant and made the point that the biomass
of organisms in a tropical rainforest (as regards animals) was mostly ants and
other invertebrates.  But so very little is known about groups such as insects.
        Not all habitats are equal, we need to know which ones are the most
important to preserve.  One measure of which ones are the most important might
be to ascertain which ones contain the largest diversity of different
evolutionary lineages of organisms, as suggested for example by Terry Erwin
of the Smithsonian.  For us to know which areas contain a high diversity of
different lineages, we must sample and then must describe the species and
determine their phylogenetic relationships.
        Our world ecosystem is increasingly frail and ailing.  To fix it we need
data about what should be done. To simply preserve areas at random would be sim
similar to a doctor treating a sick patient without trying to find out details
such as which antibiotics the patient might be allegeric to, what is the
cause of the illness, etc.
        Frankly, another good reason for trying to ascertain how many species
of organisms the world has and what the evolutionary relationships of these
organisms is , is that we need some impressive figures that we can quote to
politicians--and these numbers must be grounded in reality.
        The above having been said, I strongly agree that we need to preserve
habitats.  To this I add, the we should not forget the habitats near us.  I
have been doing research for several years in the southwestern U.S. and each
field trip and apalled and depressed at how may habitats have been wiped out
by houses and condos--even in once remote areas of the desert.
        Well enough rambling by me about our planet.

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Date: Fri, 29 Jan 93 02:06:35 -0800
From: anamaria (Peter Rauch)
To: carabid at csd4.csd.uwm.edu
Subject: Re: OOPS! - we lost count...

As much as I'd like to believe, as Gary suggests, that we should order
our priorities for saving habitats --by understanding their relative
diversity and inferred or real degree of endangerment first-- I can't
believe we'll have the luxury of time to do that. So many species, so little
time..... Almost any piece of land is worth saving; surely we can point
right now to enough really endangered and really diverse and unknown pieces
of real estate in the world to suck up every dollar/yen/mark/peso, and
every policy maker around, to save it.

I would think that if we actually did know which species occupied each
piece of terrain, we'd argue to save that piece of terrain. So, some lands
would not be that much more important to save than others --they'd all
be extremely valued. Or, is there someone out there who can point out
which lands we can devastate next?

Don't we already have enough experience to know or infer that in almost
every place we are willing to look at "thoroughly", we find unknown, rare,
interesting, valuable things and lessons?

Don't most people over forty have memories of places to where they can
no longer return  --because they no longer exist?

Don't many of us (US-born) do battle in our own county and state
backyards to salvage the little that remains of the "used-to-be-beautiful"
places we roamed as kids?

To bring this back to the point, we don't have to guess how many species
there are in the world, or in particular places in the world, in order to
get support to save those places. Let's just get to the heart of the matter,
which is to stop *now* the incessant destruction of habitat.

Vote for representatives who understand this. Don't succumb to espousing
thinking which suggests that funding shouldn't be made available to save
habitat if we can thoroughly enumerate, or even guess, the possible number
of species that might occur in a region. We can intelligently spend, right
now, every dime we can get hold of to save extremely valued natural (and
not so natural) areas, without ever making even one more estimate of the
number of species that might occur in them.

Well, I'm repeating myself....

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