How to combat the next great extinction event

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With species now vanishing at 1,000 times the rate they did before humans became the big threat to life on Earth, scientists and philosophers from around the world met this month at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ont., to discuss the best way to combat what amounts to the sixth great extinction event in the planet’s history.

Although uncomfortable with the notion that conserving endangered species now amounts to an exercise in “triage,” most of those at the conference agreed that some priorities are required, given all the time, energy and money being directed toward conservation. The issue now is how to set those priorities.

To that end, Arne Mooers, a biologist at Simon Fraser University, presented a paper called “Are some species more equal than others?” The title was purposely Orwellian because Prof. Mooers argues that evolutionary isolation – as determined by a measure called phylogenetic diversity – may be the best way to assess the value of a species. The Globe and Mail talked to him about why.

Is applying phylogenetic diversity to conservation a new idea?

Not entirely. In 1982, the celebrated biologist E.O. Wilson stated that the aim of conservation should be to preserve all the information contained in all the DNA of all species currently alive on Earth. But the notion now is a practical one – to preserve those species that carry the most information on evolutionary history in their DNA.

Written By: Leslie Anthony
continue to source article at theglobeandmail.com

8 COMMENTS

  1. “The natural world is a product of evolution so why not use evolution to guide us?” Absolutely!

    Why do people resist and resent the fact of evoluition? Could it be vanity, or arrogance, or ignorance, or fear, or stupidity, or religion?

    • In reply to #1 by Stafford Gordon:

      “The natural world is a product of evolution so why not use evolution to guide us?” Absolutely!

      Why do people resist and resent the fact of evoluition? Could it be vanity, or arrogance, or ignorance, or fear, or stupidity, or religion?

      If you replace each ‘or’ with an ‘and’ in your list of suggestions, you may be much closer to the truth.

    • In reply to #1 by Stafford Gordon:

      “The natural world is a product of evolution so why not use evolution to guide us?” Absolutely!

      Why do people resist and resent the fact of evolution? Could it be vanity, or arrogance, or ignorance, or fear, or stupidity, or religion?

      Extinction, like global warming, is a natural process. The stupidity which is causing increases in it is not!

  2. At the very least we should sample the DNA of sample species of the various families. We might not be able to do anything with it, but future generation might, and that would be a lot more certain than trying to keep tiny populations alive. It least we will have some record of our destruction.

  3. As far as plant material and food crops are concerned, seed banks are being set up to cryogenically preserve seeds for future generations.

    That is not the same as preserving working ecosystems, but it is a useful move!

    http://www.globalresearch.ca/doomsday-seed-vault-in-the-arctic-2/23503

    No project is more interesting at the moment than a curious project in one of the world’s most remote spots, Svalbard. Bill Gates is investing millions in a seed bank on the Barents Sea near the Arctic Ocean, some 1,100 kilometers from the North Pole. Svalbard is a barren piece of rock claimed by Norway and ceded in 1925 by international treaty (see map).

    On this God-forsaken island Bill Gates is investing tens of his millions along with the Rockefeller Foundation, Monsanto Corporation, Syngenta Foundation and the Government of Norway, among others, in what is called the ‘doomsday seed bank.’ Officially the project is named the Svalbard Global Seed Vault on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen, part of the Svalbard island group.

    The seed bank is being built inside a mountain on Spitsbergen Island near the small village of Longyearbyen. It’s almost ready for ‘business’ according to their releases. The bank will have dual blast-proof doors with motion sensors, two airlocks, and walls of steel-reinforced concrete one meter thick. It will contain up to three million different varieties of seeds from the entire world, ‘so that crop diversity can be conserved for the future,’ according to the Norwegian government. Seeds will be specially wrapped to exclude moisture. There will be no full-time staff, but the vault’s relative inaccessibility will facilitate monitoring any possible human activity.

  4. “The natural world is a product of evolution so why not use evolution to guide us?”

    In other words, do nothing. Business as usual.

    We humans are creating some temporary extremely drastic changes to our planet. We won’t be here 200 years from now, at least not in the numbers we are now. Things will all by themselves drift back to normal. However, we have forced the world’s species to rapidly adapt for a crazy world or die. We should be trying to leave pockets of normalcy to reseed the earth after we are gone.

  5. philosophers from around the world met this month at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ont

    You have the whole planet to choose from and you go to Laurentian in Sudbury. I find this disturbing… I’ve been to Sudbury. Neil Young left there for a reason.

    • In reply to #6 by aquilacane:

      philosophers from around the world met this month at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ont

      You have the whole planet to choose from and you go to Laurentian in Sudbury. I find this disturbing… I’ve been to Sudbury. Neil Young left there for a reason.

      Sudbury was a NASA training ground at one time, a place approaching lifeless, moon-like conditions on earth.
      Seems the best place for philosophers to ponder a world on the brink of extinction.

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