Ron at Ron at
Fri Apr 18 16:06:11 CDT 2003

John Shuey wrote

> >   "We can not protect that which we do not know."
> If this is true, then biodiversity is totally screwed.  We know so
> and the threat to biodiversity is great and those threats so pressing.
> of the threats out there is "inaction due to our limited understanding
> A) species present. B) species distributions C) ecological processes; D)
> intra - and inter-species interactions; E) viability criteria... , Z)
> pathogens...,   AZ) global warming.....  ZZ) you name it.

John has reacted the same to our motto when posted on other lists.  He
however proves the accuracy of it.  Without knowing what we do of
ecosystems and biodiversity, we would not be setting areas aside as
preserves.  We protect at all levels (broad and specific) based on what we

But, taking a shot gun approach to conservation - buy up and set aside
large areas and we will _inadvertently_ protect what we don't know is
there - is a hell of a bad way to protect the thousands (millions?)  of
living things we have no knowledge of.    As a field collector, the vast
majority of Lepidoptera I get are NOT on any protected lands or preserves.
I have found new taxa just along some old farmers field.

One of the rarest butterflies in the US in the nominate subspecies of the
Gorgone Checkerspot (Chlosyne gorgone gorgone).  This species was only
known from the original description for over 200 years - no specimens.   A
few years ago I rediscovered it at its type locality in coastal Georgia
after stumbling on it in coastal SC.   There are only two know colonies

I found the first colony (after 30 years of looking here in South Carolina)
by having a flat tire!   A friend and I were on our way to do some
collecting and I had a flat.  Pulling over, I hooked up my little air pump
to the cigarette lighter and prepared to wait the 10 minutes or so for the
tire to full up.   Well, naturally I got out the nets.  Now, my friend was
not a collector and was just along for the ride.  I had taught him how to
use a net though.   He comes up to me and says "What's this".   !!!!
#*$#$$*  There is no rich diversity at this spot, not one other goodie
species even.  Just an open woods between two fields.   A woods that is
home to one of (if not the) rarest butterfly in the US.

After this event, I thought to myself that I know a spot just like this in
GA.   The next day I went there and the first thing I saw when I got out of
my car are a Gorgone.   Guess what.  It is a trashy area next to a couple
trailers in the middle of nowhere.  Guess further.   When going back two
years later I found the spot had be turned in more trailer court lots.
Haven't seen it there (the type locality) since.

There are thousands of cases like this.  The undescribed critters by the
thousands in these same types of places are screwed UNLESS we can discover,
document and describe them.   We absolutely can not protect (and will not
protect) what science is not aware of - except by accident in tract
conservation.   Of course this supposes that the management regimens are
not detrimental to that which we do not know is there.  But if it is
unknown and a prescribed burn wipes out the world's only population (say
some mite) we will never know anyway.   So I guess ignorance is bliss after

Ron Gatrelle

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