A week or two ago, I wrote about how if environmental damage is hurting other species, it's hurting us. I wrote about how the massive number of extinctions that are occurring--some 20 to 50% of our species are expected to be gone within 100 years--cannot occur without fundamentally weakening the planetary systems we depend upon for our health, happiness and security.
Other bloggers left some excellent comments behind, explaining why human well-being is dependent on the well-being of other species.
Sharon Astyk wrote:
"Most species enable or carry over 100 other species - that is, there are at least 100 other species on which the survival of one depends. But we've never considered which species we truly depend on. Is it honey bees? Frogs? Bacteria? Are we killing them? We simply don't know our world well enough to know what we're costing ourselves."
"Each critter in the web is connected to others. They eat each other, basically, or change the environment for each other. Reality is a lot more than the 4 connections that are usual in a spider web; but the concept still works, and it's a lot easier to visualize the spider web than the reality of critical ties to 40 other organisms...
So, get out your scissors, and snip out- not a connection, but a node. You now have 4 loose threads. (or 40, in the real world) The web is not greatly disturbed. Yet. Keep snipping. The web gets weaker, and weaker, and eventually, just a slight breeze may rip the whole thing down."
But also, Jeremy Hance emailed me his Mongabay story about a new study out of Brown University that showed a direct link between increasing extinctions and global warming. The study shows that protecting biodiversity in our eco-systems may prove to be another key in fighting climate change.
As Jeremy writes:
"The Brown scientists conducted their study for six years in Patagonia. They divided an area into ninety plots then began to systematically remove native species from each plot and chart the changes in the plot's productivity. Productivity dropped as species were removed."
"Productivity," as the researchers call it, refers to the amount of biomass growing in the plot. So fewer species means less biomass which means less carbon dioxide sequestered in the plant matter and soil and therefore more global warming.
"It's a double whammy," explained Osvaldo Sala who led the study. "We not only are disturbing our planet by putting more carbon into the atmosphere, but we're reducing the ability of ecosystems to capture and store it."
Photo of the Patgonian steppe, courtesy of Osvaldo Sala, Brown University.