Ecosystem Quotes (33 quotes)
As we consider the manifold materials that keep us going between breakfast and bedtime, our welfare is served by the wild species that make up the planetary ecosystem with us. To date, scientists have conducted intensive screening of less than 1 percent of all species with a view to determining their economic potential. Yet these preliminary investigations have thrown up thousands of products of everyday use.
Before we talk about ecosystem design, we have to talk about ego-system management.
Biology is a science of three dimensions. The first is the study of each species across all levels of biological organization, molecule to cell to organism to population to ecosystem. The second dimension is the diversity of all species in the biosphere. The third dimension is the history of each species in turn, comprising both its genetic evolution and the environmental change that drove the evolution. Biology, by growing in all three dimensions, is progressing toward unification and will continue to do so.
Bottom trawling is a ghastly process that brings untold damage to sea beds that support ocean life. It’s akin to using a bulldozer to catch a butterfly, destroying a whole ecosystem for the sake of a few pounds of protein. We wouldn’t do this on land, so why do it in the oceans?
Different kinds of animals and plants live together in different places: camels in deserts, whales in the seas, gorillas in tropical forests. The totality of this diversity from the genetic level, through organisms to ecosystems and landscapes is termed collectively biological diversity.
Ecosystems are always in some state of dynamics, sometimes very obviously so, sometimes not. An analogy can be drawn with watching the second and hour hands on a clock. Both hands move, but you can only detect movement in the second hand. Stare at the hour hand all you want: it never seems to move, though it obviously does. Ecosystem change ranges from “watching the second hand” to “watching the hour hand,” depending on what sort of change is occurring.
Eventually, we’ll realize that if we destroy the ecosystem, we destroy ourselves.
I believe citizens are beginning to realize that their birthright, a healthy ecosystem, has been stolen, and they want it back.
I have never really had dreams to fulfil…. You just want to go on looking at these ecosystems and trying to understand them and they are all fascinating. To achieve a dream suggests snatching a prize from the top of a tree and running off with it, and that’s the end of it. It isn’t like that. … What you are trying to achieve is understanding and you don’t do that just by chasing dreams.
If we and the rest of the backboned animals were to disappear overnight, the rest of the world would get on pretty well. But if [the invertebrates] were to disappear, the world’s ecosystems would collapse. disappear, the land’s ecosystems would collapse. The soil would lose its fertility. Many of the plants would no longer be pollinated. Lots of animals, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals would have nothing to eat. And our fields and pastures would be covered with dung and carrion.
It all began with utter, indeed addictive, fascination with other forms of life. That led me through concern about what humanity is doing to the biology of the planet, to consideration of ecosystems and global cycles. That in turn has led to very practical concerns about how people should relate to nature. Yet the original fascination with jewel-like bits of natural science is always there.
It is folly to think that we can destroy one species and ecosystem after another and not affect humanity. When we save species, we’re actually saving ourselves.
Man has generally been preoccupied with obtaining as much “production” from the landscape as possible, by developing and maintaining early successional types of ecosystems, usually monocultures. But, of course, man does not live by food and fiber alone; he also needs a balanced CO2-O2 atmosphere, the climactic buffer provided by oceans and masses of vegetation, and clean (that is, unproductive) water for cultural and industrial uses. Many essential life-cycle resources, not to mention recreational and esthetic needs, are best provided man by the less 'productive' landscapes. In other words, the landscape is not just a supply depot but is also the oikos—the home—in which we must live.
My sense is that the most under-appreciated–and perhaps most under-researched–linkages between forests and food security are the roles that forest-based ecosystem services play in underpinning sustainable agricultural production. Forests regulate hydrological services including the quantity, quality, and timing of water available for irrigation. Forest-based bats and bees pollinate crops. Forests mitigate impacts of climate change and extreme weather events at the landscape scale.
Natural history museums have rewritten their agendas to focus on the study and conservation of ecosystems and biotas.
Nobody in the world of policy appears to be asking what is best for society, wild fish or farmed fish. And what sort of farmed fish, anyway? Were this question to be asked, and answered honestly, we might find that our interests lay in prioritizing wild fish and making their ecosystems more productive by leaving them alone enough of the time.
Now when you cut a forest, an ancient forest in particular, you are not just removing a lot of big trees and a few birds fluttering around in the canopy. You are drastically imperiling a vast array of species within a few square miles of you. The number of these species may go to tens of thousands. … Many of them are still unknown to science, and science has not yet discovered the key role undoubtedly played in the maintenance of that ecosystem, as in the case of fungi, microorganisms, and many of the insects.
Perhaps our and Gaia’s greatest error was the conscious abuse of fire. Cooking meat over a wood fire may have been acceptable, but the deliberate destruction of whole ecosystems by fire merely to drive out the animals within was surely our first great sin against the living Earth. It has haunted us ever since and combustion could now be our auto da fé, and the cause of our extinction.
Populations of bacteria live in the spumes of volcanic thermal vents on the ocean floor, multiplying in water above the boiling point. And far beneath Earth’s surface, to a depth of 2 miles (3.2 km) or more, dwell the SLIMES (subsurface lithoautotrophic microbial ecosystems), unique assemblages of bacteria and fungi that occupy pores in the interlocking mineral grains of igneous rock and derive their energy from inorganic chemicals. The SLIMES are independent of the world above, so even if all of it were burned to a cinder, they would carry on and, given enough time, probably evolve new life-forms able to re-enter the world of air and sunlight.
The first rule of intelligent tinkering is to save all the parts.
The habitat of an organism is the place where it lives, or the place where one would go to find it. The ecological niche, on the other hand, is the position or status of an organism within its community and ecosystem resulting from the organism’s structural adaptations, physiological responses and specific behavior (inherited and/or learned). The ecological niche of an organism depends not only on where it lives, but also on what it does. By analogy, it may be said that the habitat is the organism’s ‘address,’ and the niche is its ‘profession,’ biologically speaking.
The late Alan Gregg pointed out that human population growth within the ecosystem was closely analogous to the growth of malignant tumor cells within an organism: that man was acting like a cancer on the biosphere. The multiplication of human numbers certainly seems wild and uncontrolled… Four million a month—the equivalent of the population of Chicago… We seem to be doing all right at the moment; but if you could ask cancer cells, I suspect they would think they were doing fine. But when the organism dies, so do they; and for our own, selfish, practical, utilitarian reasons, I think we should be careful about how we influence the rest of the ecosystem.
The links between ecosystem and human health are many and obvious: the value in wetlands of filtering pollutants out of groundwater aquifers; the potential future medical use of different plants’ genetic material; the human health effects of heavy metal accumulation in fish and shellfish. It is clear that healthy ecosystems provide the underpinnings for the long-term health of economics and societies.
The most commonly used measure of biodiversity is species richness, which simply means the number of species in one place. But that measure alone does not tell us how healthy an ecosystem is. For example, think of a pristine coral reef and an overfished coral reef. The pristine reef might have dozens of gray reef sharks, whereas the overfished reef could have just one shark left.
The only level of the hierarchy [of biological communities] that is both necessary and sufficient to meet all objectives is the ecosystem or some higher-level approach. The strategy selected should not only ensure the conservation of spotted owls, but all the intricate linkages that are associated with natural populations of spotted owls in naturally functioning ecosystems. Many of these are as yet unknown.
The tiny creatures of the undergrowth were the first creatures of any kind to colonise the land. They established the foundations of the land’s ecosystems and were able to transcend the limitations of their small size by banding together in huge communities of millions.
There are three levels of biodiversity that we’re trying to save: ecosystems, then the species in the ecosystems, and then the genes that prescribe traits of the species that make up the ecosystem. And we should decide upon areas to be saved not by the general appearance or what are the main ecosystems in them. We don’t know enough about ecosystems. We should be choosing them according to the number of species that are in each. And particularly the number of endangered species of some kind.
There is no waste in functioning natural ecosystems. All organisms, dead or alive, are potential sources of food for other organisms. A caterpillar eats a leaf; a robin eats the caterpillar; a hawk eats the robin. When the plant, caterpillar, robin, and hawk die, they are in turn consumed by decomposers.
To halt the decline of an ecosystem, it is necessary to think like an ecosystem.
To the extent that remaining old-growth Douglas fir ecosystems possess unique structural and functional characteristics distinct from surrounding managed forests, the analogy between forest habitat islands and oceanic islands applies. Forest planning decision variables such as total acreage to be maintained, patch size frequency distribution, spatial distribution of patches, specific locations, and protective measures all need to be addressed.
We consider species to be like a brick in the foundation of a building. You can probably lose one or two or a dozen bricks and still have a standing house. But by the time you’ve lost twenty percent of species, you’re going to destabilize the entire structure. That’s the way ecosystems work.
We need to think of “blue carbon” and other services provided by healthy marine ecosystems. Mangroves, seagrasses and coastal marshes are great sinks for atmospheric carbon.
When you leave intact as many species as possible, in a major habitat, whether it’s a pond or a bay or a forest somewhere, the better it functions. And the better it functions, the better it serves.