Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Save the Big Guys

Scientists from six countries reaffirmed that all the animals in a habitat -- ocean, mountain, forest, etc -- are closely connected, and the largest, top predators are especially important for the health of the entire habitat.

This goes for whales, sharks, tuna, salmon, and many others in the marine world.

Lead author of the study, James Estes, a marine ecologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, states “The top-down effects of apex consumers have diverse and powerful effects on the ways ecosystems work, and the loss of these large animals has widespread implications," according to Mother Earth News.

The examples cited by the scientists show how health of a habitat is closely connected in surprising ways to the health of the larger animals.

    * Industrial whaling has led to declining populations of plankton-eating great whales. There is carbon contained in the whales’ feces and whales deposit this carbon in the deep sea. The decline of the whale population has led to an increase of 105 million tons of carbon into the atmosphere.

    * The baboon population was amplified due to the destruction of lions in Africa. Baboons carried over intestinal parasites to human settlements nearby.

    * The reintroduction of wolves in Yellowstone National Park reduced deer and elk populations, allowing aspen and willow trees to recover.

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