Hey! Another reason to plant more forests!

Discussions of weather and climate as it affects trees, forests, and ourselves.

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Joe

Re: Hey! Another reason to plant more forests!

Post by Joe » Sun Oct 23, 2011 6:38 am

regardless of what wiped them out- and that is a fascinating science question- even more fascinating is that the existed-- some pretty amazing creatures- too bad we can't experience them
Joe

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jamesrobertsmith
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Re: Hey! Another reason to plant more forests!

Post by jamesrobertsmith » Sun Oct 23, 2011 5:37 pm

Whatever doubts I had about humans clearing out the Pleistocene megafauna have been laid permanently to rest on the the evidence of the impact of the Aborigines on the flora and fauna to Australia. You can quite easily and specifically track the extinction of that giant island's wildlife with the spread of human beings across it. Before humans arrived there were all sorts of huge animals. After the humans, almost nothing of that ecosystem remained.

Ed: Oh, yeah. I was always quite aware of the time element of the middens. Even as a kid. It's the totality of it all. You can't really find too many relatively undisturbed spots here in the southeast that don't contain Indian artifacts. I've watched vast, deeply packed middens being excavated--and those were obviously long-term spots where people sat in plenty for a long time. But I've also hiked and scraped over too many miles to mention where we'd find that stuff lying on the ground and down in the earth.

As I said, from the evidence I've read (and I am always painfully aware that I'm a poorly educated layman), I tend to land on the side of the arguments that there were something like 80 million or so humans living in the Americas before those first European contacts spread new diseases that devastated those populations. Therefore, something like the mini-Ice Age conjecture makes sense to me.

Joe

Re: Hey! Another reason to plant more forests!

Post by Joe » Mon Oct 24, 2011 6:28 am

well, one way or the other, there is no doubt that humans are violent, destructive creatures

Joe

Re: Hey! Another reason to plant more forests!

Post by Joe » Sun Apr 01, 2012 1:08 pm

Joe wrote:BTW, the author of "1491" now has a new book, "1493" which I will order soon and after I read it, I'll follow up in this thread.
Joe
I just got "1493" and it's very, very interesting. He begins by describing the trade between Spain and China. Spain had the silver, which it got from "the New World" and China had just about everything else. The author explains that much of the impulse of western Europeans to explore the Americas was their drive to get a piece of that trade with China, including the establishment of Jamestown.
Joe

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Bart Bouricius
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Re: Hey! Another reason to plant more forests!

Post by Bart Bouricius » Mon Apr 02, 2012 11:22 am

Rand,

The idea that humans exterminated much of the mega fauna in North America is not new with the publishing of the book 1491, but was championed by noted ecologist Dan Janzen and others much earlier. One difficulty with the theories that factors other than hunting by humans were primarily responsible for the extinction of megafauna is that we know that everywhere else that humans went, they have played at least some role in exterminated megafauna. I don't know whether the Giant Moa birds of New Zeland would be considered mega enough, and they were certainly less fearsome than the "birds" in Robert's book The Flock, but they were undoubtedly wiped out by the Māori around 1500. If you consider the spread across the pacific by early settlers, or the settlement of Australia by the Aborigines, there have been some serious human impacts on large, edible or threatening species. This does not mean that humans caused all these extinctions, nor that some or most might have gone extinct anyway from other causes, but I think there is little doubt that humans have had a significant impact on the species mix wherever they have roamed. While I think the native peoples of North America have had trivial impact on the forests compared to the European onslaught, and that the concept of the sacred in the natural environment was an inhibiting factor, there is no question that great changes did occur when man invaded North and South America.

That said, the truth is not always somewhere in the middle, as moderates in all disputes would like to believe, but the truth is just where it is, regardless of whether it is on the edge of thinking or in the middle ground of compromise. Remember Wegener's theory of "continental drift." And Lynn Margulis' Theory of symbiogenesis were way beyond mainstream thinking not so many decades ago. Now they are "facts" in modern geology and biology texts. Here is a 2006 examination of some Megafauna extinction theories: http://unsw.academia.edu/StephenWroe/Pa ... afauna_QSR_

Joe

Re: Hey! Another reason to plant more forests!

Post by Joe » Mon Apr 02, 2012 11:38 am

I only wish we could quicky make contact with some advanced alian civilization- one that is familiar with intelligent life across the galaxy and their evolutionary histories- then we could find out how we are similar or not to the others. Perhaps the destructive tendencies of our species is typical- and that, after maturing sufficiently, the intelligent species then come into an equilibrium with the rest of their planet.
Joe

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Rand
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Re: Hey! Another reason to plant more forests!

Post by Rand » Mon Apr 02, 2012 1:15 pm

Joe wrote:I only wish we could quicky make contact with some advanced alian civilization- one that is familiar with intelligent life across the galaxy and their evolutionary histories- then we could find out how we are similar or not to the others. Perhaps the destructive tendencies of our species is typical- and that, after maturing sufficiently, the intelligent species then come into an equilibrium with the rest of their planet.
Joe
Oh, they'll be an equilibrium all right. I'm just concerned how much of our civilization and the planet's biosphere will be left when we get there.

It'd be nice if we could work out some type of workable balance between the too, but if the past is any indication we are more than capable of a lose/lose situation.

Have you read Jared Diamond's book 'Collapse: How societies choose to succeed or fail'? It's really instructive how societies have to come together and have honest discussions about the limits their ecosystems place on their way of life and what must be changed or jettisoned to accommodate them.

Famous failures - Easter Island, the Maya, Greenland Norse
Little known successes - Tokugawa Japan's deforestation crisis, various isolated polynesian islands

Guess which group the super-abundance of the last 70 years predisposes us to fall into?

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Marcboston
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Re: Hey! Another reason to plant more forests!

Post by Marcboston » Sun Apr 08, 2012 9:56 am

I agree with James that Native Americans wiped out the mega fauna. All you would need to do is wipe out some 1 or 2 prey species and the predators would fall too. Animals in Africa were around humans from the start and that continent is 3.8x larger than the USA alone. The mega fauna here probably had to adjust to climate change too and if you throw in the human component it was a perfect recipe for extinction.

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