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Extinctions

 

By Ranger Steve Mueller

Waylon Jennings said, “The wide-open spaces are closing in quickly from the weight of the whole human race.” 

One does not need to be a scientist to recognize how human abundance imposes on people and other species. When does too much of something threaten human existence and other species? Watching the loss of another species and being unable to save it despite best efforts lets us know the fragility of nature niches. 

We watched the most abundant bird species decline to extinction in a 50-year period. We did not understand the ecological requirements of the Passenger Pigeon and could not save it. We were unable to fully analyze its needs and habitat requirements before it was gone. A segment of the human population saw it as a commodity to use until it was gone and dismissed it without remorse. Another segment ached in heart and mind. 

There are those that feel a responsibility for sustaining creation and those that feel all creation is here for unregulated use and consumption for personal desires. Key to that statement is “feel.” It has nothing to with scientific evidence to sustain Earth ecosystems for our health. How we feel trumps evidence-supported science. Compassion and a tender heart are necessary if we hope to embrace science to help us.

The disappearance of a species means little if people do not share a sense of oneness and purpose with other life. When parents lose children to malaria, it is no wonder they hope for the extinction of the disease agent. Many would appreciate extinction of all mosquitoes but most mosquito species cannot transmit malaria. 

Mosquitoes are a nuisance with tremendous impacts on wildlife health. They draw blood that weakens animals as large as moose. Despite the apparent negative impacts of mosquitoes, their presence is essential for maintaining life and reproduction for aquatic insects, fish, birds and even people. Science evidence supports that a great diversity of species is needed to sustain food chains and long-term ecological stability. 

Why am I thinking about extinctions? I am a member of the Mitchell’s Satyr and Karner Blue Butterfly working groups with US FWS and MDNR that are striving to help those endangered species recover adequately to sustain their populations without human assistance. They both live in our region and are declining. 

On September 22, 1979 scientists reported the Large Blue Butterfly (Maculinae arion) became extinct. Efforts to save it were progressing. Life history research was occurring but the species disappeared before intricacies of its nature niche were understood. Saving remnants of habitats is needed because we cannot learn enough.

We reduce species by eliminating habitat. Loss of healthy living space impacts species and our own survival chances. Human survival, like that of the abundant Passenger Pigeons, depends on understanding ecological requirements. How we feel about our role in nature and for maintaining healthy yards can save us. 

Protecting groundwater from discarded chemicals, reducing excessive release of carbon into the atmosphere by switching from fossil fuels to alternative energy sources, in addition to maintaining yards with native species instead of large lawns can protect our own nature niche and that of other species. Protecting National Monuments protects species important for maintaining biodiversity and preventing extinctions.

It is estimated 10 to 50 million species live on Earth. A million may have been lost since the Large Blue became extinct. Evidence supports that human enhanced climate change and other misuses accelerate extinction. Scientific evidence is easily dismissed. How we feel about living things that maintain a healthy world is important. As our population increases, it becomes increasingly critical to eliminate large lawns to allow native species a place to live. We can manage for a healthy future if we feel like it. Sound science and reason can provide the “how to” if our feelings demonstrate caring. Love and caring for life on Earth will lead to accepting and using scientific evidence to sustain people, society, and a healthy future. 

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

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