ecosystem importance (Introduction)

by David Turell @, Tuesday, December 07, 2021, 19:28 (204 days ago)

Another example:

https://mail.yahoo.com/d/folders/1/messages/ANx0W552sO2qYa-xkQ0jSJ1NDhU?.intl=us&.p...

"Part of what makes the Serengeti so special is the astonishing array of life it contains—a deeply interconnected web of thousands of animal and plant species. There are, of course, the safari favorites—elephant, lion, rhino, hippo, cheetah (pictured above), and giraffe. But there are multitudes of creatures that get little attention—the African fish eagle (a near doppelganger for the American bald eagle), the tree hyrax (a tiny distant relative of the elephant), and a hundred species of dung beetles (which navigate by the Milky Way).

***

"Since the 1970s, scientists have understood that the key bellwether for the health of the Serengeti is the wildebeest. The ecosystem relies disproportionately on the more than one million wildebeest moving steadily clockwise around the region, following the pattern of seasonal rains. This spectacular interactive map explains how the migration causes everything to flourish—trees and grasses, insects and birds, predators and prey.

"But the surge of human activity has squeezed the wildebeest migration routes, raising concerns about this crucial piece of the Serengeti puzzle. According to Joseph Ogutu, a Kenyan statistician whose specialty is counting wildlife populations and modeling how they will change, the number of wildebeests migrating from Tanzania into Kenya is declining, and those that do come are spending up to one and a half months fewer per year than they used to.

"In addition to the wildebeest, Kenyan conservationist and Nat Geo Explorer Paula Kahumbu points out other animals that serve as barometers to the Serengeti’s health. The greater kudu, common duiker, bushbuck, bushpig, giant forest hog, oribi, colobus monkey, sable antelope, roan antelope, and black rhino are all species that safari guides report have disappeared or nearly disappeared in recent years.

"To change course, Ogutu cites the need to reduce fencing in key areas and enact better policies regarding grazing, but he especially emphasizes the need to set aside land to protect the wildebeest migration route because, as Tanzanian ecologist Tony Sinclair has pointed out, “Without the wildebeest, there would be no Serengeti.”

Comment: as usual too many humans are getting in the way. This is a beautiful example of an important very complex system which is an answer to why dhw thinks God made too many animals on His way to producing humans. All those animals are necessary for the proper balance. Just imagine the chaos if all the lions disappeared, as the absent wolves in Yellowstone.

ecosystem importance: geckos special diet

by David Turell @, Wednesday, January 05, 2022, 20:23 (175 days ago) @ David Turell

Geckos in a very hot climate find food:

https://www.sciencenews.org/article/spider-gecko-earth-hottest-landscape

"Surface temperatures in the Lut Desert in Iran, home to the Misonne’s spider gecko (Rhinogecko misonnei), soar past 65° Celsius more frequently than anywhere else on the planet. The extreme heat makes it difficult for life to thrive, and for years, ecologists have regarded the desert as mostly barren.

"To find out how the geckos sustain themselves in this desolate oven, entomologist Hossein Rajaei of the State Museum of Natural History in Stuttgart, Germany and colleagues analyzed the stomach contents of six geckos using DNA metabarcoding (SN: 4/18/16). The technique compares chunks of DNA with a species identification database, like a bar code scanner in a grocery store. “It’s very accurate, very comprehensive and very trustable,” Rajaei says.

"Within the geckos’ digestive soup stewed DNA from 94 species, about 81 percent of which hail from outside the Lut Desert, the team reports November 18 in the Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research.

"The majority of these outsiders were winged insects such as flies, moths and wasps that migrate through the desert from bordering temperate landscapes. The remaining species — arachnids, arthropods and more moths — are endemic to the Lut, but are elusive in its heart, where the geckos were collected. The unexpected diversity highlights that there’s more living in this desert than meets the eye, Rajaei says.

"The findings underscore the importance of intertwined food webs for animals to survive in hostile habitats, says Robert Pringle, an ecologist at Princeton University who was not involved in the research. “The movement of insects from outside the immediate area subsidizes the geckos and helps them to persist in this extreme desert environment,” he says."

Comment: same old. All ecosystems are complex and required by all living organisms for food energy. This clearly explains the huge branched bush of life that evolution created, a point dhw disputes when he laughs at the theory that God wanted to create humans and their food. We are here. Of course He did.

ecosystem importance: antibiotic resistance

by David Turell @, Saturday, January 08, 2022, 18:45 (172 days ago) @ David Turell

All part of eat or be eaten:

https://www.sciencenews.org/article/drug-resistant-bacteria-hedgehog-mrsa

"Beneath the prickly spines of European hedgehogs, a microbial standoff may have bred a dangerous drug-resistant pathogen long before the era of antibiotic use in humans.

"It’s no question that antibiotic use accelerates drug-resistance in bacteria that colonize humans, says Jesper Larsen, a veterinarian at Statens Serum Institut in Copenhagen. But, he says, these microbes had to get the genes to give them resistance from somewhere, and scientists don’t know where most of these genes come from.

"Now, for one type of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, Larsen and colleagues have tracked its evolution to hedgehogs hundreds of years ago. On the skin of these critters, a fungus that produces natural antibiotics may have created the environment for drug resistance to evolve in the bacteria, the researchers report January 5 in Nature.

***

“'There is no doubt that our usage of antibiotics is the main driver of resistance in human pathogens,” says Anders Larsen, a microbiologist at Statens Serum Institut who was also was part of the team. “This is a very special case where we can just track it back to an origin.”

"But that doesn’t explain how the hedgehogs’ S. aureus developed resistance. The team got a clue from a 1960s research study about Trichophyton erinacei, a fungus that causes “hedgehog ringworm” in humans. That study reported that T. erinacei on hedgehog skin killed some S. aureus but not others that were resistant to penicillin. Growing T. erinacei in the lab, the researchers identified two penicillin-like antibiotics pumped out by the fungi.

"This findings suggests that hedgehogs are a MRSA reservoir because “they’re living cheek by jowl with organisms that are producing penicillin,” says Gerry Wright, a biochemist at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, who was not involved with the study. (my bold)

***

"The history of antibiotics in the last century is a cycle of new drug discoveries shortly followed by microbial resistance cropping up to those drugs. That shouldn’t be a surprise, Wright says. “Because antibiotics have been on the planet for billions of years, and resistance is billions of years old,” he says." (my bold 2)

Comment: None of this is surprising information. The Earth is a giant restaurant. All life must have continuous energy supply to live. From the theodicy viewpoint it is impossible to create life not needing energy supplies. All organisms live in their own organized ecosystem, the complexities of which have been shown here. They have developed since the start of life and its diversification. The MRSA staph aureus happily live in their own ecosystem until they try to eat in the wrong places and then there is a battle. Stay in their system and nothing goes bad or wrong. In an eat or be eaten world it is only logical that all organisms have defense systems as this article shows, in case the wrong folks mix together. In dhw's imagined God's free-for-all world this outcome is ordained to happen. In the real God's reality, it is required by necessary diversification to form sustaining ecosystems for the food supply. So I view bad infectious diseases as unescapable bad luck, not my God's doing.

As an aside, in the theodicy arena of discussion, this does not enter the realm of metabolic errors, which have been discussed in the past

ecosystem importance: antibiotic resistance

by David Turell @, Monday, January 10, 2022, 18:43 (170 days ago) @ David Turell

I'm not sure I've seen a reasonable response to this comment:

The Earth is a giant restaurant. All life must have continuous energy supply to live. From the theodicy viewpoint it is impossible to create life not needing energy supplies. All organisms live in their own organized ecosystem, the complexities of which have been shown here. They have developed since the start of life and its diversification. The MRSA staph aureus happily live in their own ecosystem until they try to eat in the wrong places and then there is a battle. Stay in their system and nothing goes bad or wrong. In an eat or be eaten world it is only logical that all organisms have defense systems as this article shows, in case the wrong folks mix together. In dhw's imagined God's free-for-all world this outcome is ordained to happen. In the real God's reality, it is required by necessary diversification to form sustaining ecosystems for the food supply. So I view bad infectious diseases as unescapable bad luck, not my God's doing.

As an aside, in the theodicy arena of discussion, this does not enter the realm of metabolic errors, which have been discussed in the past

I've not copied the previous entry but the source article is there for review

ecosystem importance: example of pathogens fight hosts

by David Turell @, Friday, January 14, 2022, 19:06 (166 days ago) @ David Turell

Breaking up the mitochondrial membrane:

https://phys.org/news/2022-01-pathogens-mitochondrial-defense-mechanisms.html

"Mitochondria are known as energy suppliers for our cells, but they also play an important role in the defense against pathogens. They can initiate immune responses, and deprive pathogens of the nutrients they need to grow. A research team led by Lena Pernas of the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing in Cologne, Germany, has now shown that pathogens can turn off mitochondrial defense mechanisms by hijacking a normal cellular response to stress.

"To survive, pathogens need to acquire nutrients from their host and counter host defenses. One such defense comes from host mitochondria, which can deprive them of nutrients they need and thus restrict their growth. "We wanted to know how else mitochondrial behavior changes when mitochondria and pathogens meet in cells. Because the outer membrane of these organelles is the first point of contact with the pathogens, we took a closer look at it," explains Lena Pernas, research group leader at the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing.

"The researchers infected cells with the human parasite Toxoplasma gondii and observed live under the microscope what happens to the outer compartment of mitochondria. "We saw that mitochondria in contact with the parasite started shedding large structures from their outer membrane. This was so puzzling to us. Why would mitochondria shed what is essentially the gateway between them and the rest of the cell?" says Xianhe Li, first author of the study.

"But how does the parasite get the mitochondria to do it? The research team was able to show that the pathogen has a protein that functionally mimics a host mitochondrial protein. It binds to a receptor on the outer membrane of mitochondria, to gain access to the machinery that ensures proteins are transported inside the mitochondria. "In doing so, the parasite hijacks a normal host response to mitochondrial stress that, in the context of infection, effectively disarms the mitochondria" Pernas said. "Other researchers have shown that a SARS-CoV-2 virus protein also binds to this transport receptor. This suggests the receptor plays an important role in the host-pathogen interaction. But further investigation is needed to better understand its role during different infections.'"

Comment: its eat or die out there. This is another example of the war over food supply. It has been and will be continuous in every ecosystem. We humans are top predators, and must always recognize not to damage our food systems. Our advantage is that we can think, analyze, and correct mistakes.

ecosystem importance: example of pathogens fight hosts

by David Turell @, Tuesday, January 18, 2022, 19:04 (162 days ago) @ David Turell

Phages killing bacteria used in therapy:

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2304997-phage-therapies-for-superbug-infections-ar...

"The use of bacteria-killing viruses known as phages to treat antibiotic-resistant infections is starting to take off in Belgium. More than 100 people have now been given phage therapies there, thanks to a regulatory system that makes it easier for doctors to prescribe them.

***

"One of the doctors, Anaïs Eskenazi, decided to try phage therapy. A sample of the bacterium was sent to the Eliava Institute in Tbilisi, Georgia, to find a phage that could kill it. The Eliava Institute has been using phage therapy to treat infections since the 1920s.

"By February 2018, the woman was still not improving, and she was finally treated with the phage in combination with antibiotics. Within weeks, her condition improved, and her broken femur finally began to heal. She is now able to walk again, usually with crutches, and is taking part in sports such as cycling.

"Despite results such as this, there are several obstacles to using phage therapy more widely. Phages are specific to particular bacteria, and those bacteria can quickly evolve resistance, says Ben Temperton at the University of Exeter, UK. Evolving or “pre-adapting” phages, as the Eliava Institute did, reduces resistance but takes time.

“'Patients have typically been on a long journey of failed antibiotic regimens before phages are considered,” says Temperton.

***

“'When possible, doctors should prefer the use of pre-adapted phage with antibiotics to obtain the phage-antibiotic synergy, which makes the treatment very effective,” Eskenazi says.

"These issues make it hard to get regulatory approval. At the time the woman was treated, Eskenazi had to get special approval to try phage therapy. This remains the case in most countries, which is why phage therapies are rarely used."

Comment: This article is of interest at several levels. A new use for bacteriophages and looking at ecosystems to find enemies for specific organism-borne disease to find inventive
treatments.

ecosystem importance: deep under arctic ice

by David Turell @, Wednesday, February 09, 2022, 20:16 (140 days ago) @ David Turell

Newly found persistent remnant of oldder life:

https://www.sciencealert.com/sponges-in-one-of-the-world-s-most-barren-habitats-survive...

The bottom of the Arctic Ocean, below the permanent sea ice, is not a friendly place for life.

"Down there in the cold dark, nutrients and vegetation are sparse; it's expected that any life that does manage to eke out an existence under these conditions would be likewise thin on the ground.

"Scientists were very surprised to discover, therefore, a thriving and dense population of sponges occupying inactive volcanic seamounts at mesopelagic depths in the Central Arctic Ocean.

"'Thriving on top of extinct volcanic seamounts of the Langseth Ridge we found massive sponge gardens, but did not know what they were feeding on," says marine biologist Antje Boetius

***

"'Our analysis revealed that the sponges have microbial symbionts that are able to use old organic matter," explains Teresa Morganti of the Max Planck Institute

"'This allows them to feed on the remnants of former, now extinct inhabitants of the seamounts, such as the tubes of worms composed of protein and chitin and other trapped detritus."

"Sponges are very simple yet successful life forms. They have no muscles, no nerves, no organs. They do, however, have one trait that helps them adapt to and survive in such a wide range of environments: just like us they rely on the help of their microbiomes, but to an even greater extent.

"In their porous bodies, they host diverse communities of microbes, such as bacteria, microalgae and archaea. Up to 40 percent of a sponge's volume can be symbiont microbes.

"These microbes can contribute to their host's metabolism quite significantly, through such mechanisms as photosynthesis and nitrogen fixation, the disposal of excretion or the production of antibiotics, that the host wouldn't be able to do on their own. This turned out to be the case with the arctic sponges, too.

***

"When the seamounts died and cooled, so too did the ecosystems that relied on them, leaving behind their remains. Very little in the ocean, however, goes to waste, even the remains of extinct organisms. Where there's a resource, a niche will often emerge.

"'The microbes have just the right toolbox for this habitat," says marine microbiologist Ute Hentschel of the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Germany.

"The microbes have the genes to digest refractory particulate and dissolved organic matter and use it as a carbon and nitrogen source, as well as a number of chemical energy sources available there."

"It's a marvelous and peculiar ecosystem, demonstrating yet another way life can carve out a place for itself even in the most difficult places to do so.

"'This is a unique ecosystem. We have never seen anything like it before in the high Central Arctic," Boetius says.

"'In the study area, primary productivity in the overlying water provides less than one percent of the sponges' carbon demand. Thus, this sponge garden may be a transient ecosystem, but it is rich in species, including soft corals."

"But, the researchers noted, the discovery also highlights how much biodiversity may be unknown to us in habitats inhospitable to humans.

"In places like the Arctic, under the horrifying threat of climate change, understanding the biodiversity will be essential for trying to protect it, the team says."

Comment: there are ecosystems everywhere starting at the bottom of life's forms with simple forms like sponges. Theses systems are stacked one upon another and as the complexity of life increases, in the higher stacks organisms like us humans benefit with our food supply. Only God's method of evolution produced this arrangement, food for all. dhw does not understand how important this arrangement must be.

ecosystem importance: reintroduce top predators

by David Turell @, Sunday, February 20, 2022, 16:36 (129 days ago) @ David Turell

Benefits cited in new study:

https://phys.org/news/2022-02-reintroducing-large-mammals-world-ecosystems.html

"Reintroducing just 20 species of large mammals could help to restoring the world's biodiversity.

"Introducing these animals back into their historic ranges across the world could create the conditions necessary to allow these species to expand their ranges to cover over a quarter of the planet. This would help to restore ecosystems, lock away excess carbon dioxide and boost populations of other species.

"Lead author Dr. Carly Vynne says, "Our results give both hope and scope for reversing the depletion of intact fauna groupings via proactive, strategically implemented restoration programs.

***

"Reintroducing large mammals to their historic ranges is a common aspect of rewilding, where attempts are made to restore ecosystems to a 'natural' state which can regulate itself.

***

"This is the case for predatory mammals such as wolves, whose reintroduction is often controversial among some. However, studies do show that these animals have a significant impact on the environment through controlling herbivore populations, allowing plants and scavengers to flourish.

"As well as carnivores, the reintroduction of herbivores can also have significant impacts through dispersing seeds, recycling nutrients and helping to control fire by grazing.

"The researchers behind the current study wanted to investigate where the reintroduction of large mammals would have the greatest impact, and how it could be achieved. They found that only 20 key species, including 13 herbivores and seven predators, were needed to help biodiversity bounce back across the world."

Comment: makes the same point I've expressed in the past. Ecosystems provide the necessary food for all. They are complex and delicate and easy to damage. It is obvious a vast bush of life is necessary to set up these systems. I view this as one of God's major purposes as He created evolution with preparation for humans

ecosystem importance: basic role of zooplankton

by David Turell @, Friday, February 25, 2022, 01:51 (125 days ago) @ David Turell

A good review:

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/blogs/national-museum-of-natural-history/2022/02/24/an-o...

"Though they might not be Olympic swimmers, many zooplankton participate in the largest migration on the planet, traveling the hundreds of meters between the sun-filled surface waters and the dark depths on a daily basis.

For many species, this epic trek is the key to surviving in the water column. “It’s like playing hide-and-seek on a football field,” Osborn said. “You’re out in this huge three-dimensional space with no structure and nothing to hide behind, and getting found usually means getting eaten.” To steer clear of predators, zooplankton will retreat to deeper, darker waters during the day and only venture to the surface for food under cover of night.

"Not every species moves on the same schedule, and researchers are still untangling all the reasons for this journey. What is clear is that when zooplankton migrate, many other species — including other zooplankton — take advantage of the daily pattern.

***

"Many other animals that feed on zooplankton, like fish, follow the migrators in search of a meal. And the animals that eat those zooplankton predators, like seals, toothed whales and sea turtles, get in on the action, too — meaning that the zooplankton’s game of hide-and-seek is responsible for the daily dynamics of the entire system.

"Those bigger animals have little choice but to trail the zooplankton up and down the water column. The entire marine food web relies on them. Where zooplankton go, everyone else follows.

“'Zooplankton are essential for a healthy ecosystem,” said Paula Pappalardo, an ecologist who studies plankton biodiversity at the museum. “The tiny zooplankton will eat the phytoplankton, which get their energy from the sun through photosynthesis.” (my bold)

"Those zooplankton are eaten by larger zooplankton, which are eaten by fish, which are eaten by marine mammals, seabirds and humans — making zooplankton crucial for survival far beyond the shoreline. Some colossal ocean creatures, like baleen whales, even feed on zooplankton directly, producing a vast web of predators and prey with zooplankton at its center. (my bold)

"All that eating, waste-producing, growing and dying also means that zooplankton play a critical role in the global carbon cycle. “They are very important for what’s known as the biological pump,” Pappalardo said. “Because of their vertical migration, zooplankton help move organic matter to deeper waters, and their fecal pellets and decomposing bodies sink through the ocean as part of the marine snow. Those processes transport carbon down the water column and eventually it gets buried in ocean sediments,” a key step in the movement of carbon around the planet.

"So many intricately connected processes means that jostling the zooplankton population, particularly through human disturbances like climate change, could have cascading consequences.

“'Everything seems to be in a delicate balance out there,” Osborn said. “If you really imbalance something, it’s probably going to have a pretty huge effect, and we don’t know what the downstream changes are going to be.'”

Comment: Another amazingly complex ecosystem that is part of a precise feeding setup designed by God to solve the problem that every living one has to eat. dhw demands all sorts of God 'purposes'. well this is an important one He had to see was designed properly to fill the food need. On the way to evolving humans God had to work on all the side issues/ purposes that were required to keep the whole evolutionary process going properly. Who would have thought that all those weirdly shaped zooplankton were so important unless curious humans did the research. The lesson to be learned is that all the oddballs in reality are there for God's reasons. Example, no human parts are vestigial. No human outthinks God.

ecosystem importance: benign top predators

by David Turell @, Monday, March 07, 2022, 16:25 (114 days ago) @ David Turell

A new view:

https://www.sciencealert.com/animals-have-evolved-to-avoid-overexploiting-their-resourc...

"in a recent study published in Ecology Letters, my colleagues and I show – using complex predator-prey models – how this delicate equilibrium between predator and prey could have evolved.

"Prudent predation means that a predator species has evolved to avoid consuming as much and as aggressively as its own physical limits permit. Effectively – though not knowingly – prudent predators are restraining themselves for the benefit of other members of their species, as well as for future generations.

"Even when predators are prudent in their natural habitat, they may overexploit the prey around them if they are moved to places where they don't belong. An example is the Indo-Pacific lionfish, whose populations have rapidly expanded in and around the Gulf of Mexico and the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

"Lionfish feed on smaller fish and shellfish that live in reefs. They are such ferocious predators that ecologists became concerned that, especially in the Gulf of Mexico, few other fish species would survive their presence. Instead, something else happened.

"Lionfish populations suddenly began falling in Gulf of Mexico reefs, while their native competitors remained. It appears that, because lionfish overexploit their prey, they are not such strong competitors after all.

"These dwindling lionfish populations are therefore experiencing evolutionary pressure to feed less ferociously, so they can occupy reefs longer and have more opportunities to spread to other reefs. Eventually, we expect them to adapt to their new habitat by becoming prudent predators."

Comment: Ecosystems are designed to control themselves as this shows.

ecosystem importance: single gene theory

by David Turell @, Friday, April 01, 2022, 20:06 (89 days ago) @ David Turell

One keystone gene can destroy a vital species:

https://newsakmi.com/news/science/a-single-gene-in-one-species-can-cause-other-species-...

"But what if ecosystems not only hinge on a single species but can be made or broken by a single gene? In a study published on Thursday in Science, researchers have demonstrated the existence of what theycall a “keystone gene.” The discovery may have implications for how scientists think about the ways ecosystems, and the species in them, persist over time.

"In the lab, the researchers built several miniature ecosystems that consisted of just four species each. At the bottom of the food chain was Arabidopsis thaliana, a small annual plant that is a favorite study organism among biologists (its genome was sequenced more than 20 years ago). In each ecosystem, the plant served as food for two species of aphids, which in turn fed a parasitoid wasp.

***

"As the team expected, the ecosystems with more genetically diverse plants turned out to be more stable. For each plant with a different genetic makeup that the researchers added to the mix, the insects’ extinction rate fell by nearly 20 percent, compared with monocultures.

"But what stunned the researchers was that this result seemed to hinge on a single gene. Regardless of diversity, if systems contained plants with a certain variant, or allele, of the AOP2 gene, the extinction rate of the insects decreased by 29 percent, compared with systems without it. Essentially, if you change that AOP2 allele, you lose the insects. Increasing genetic diversity helped the insects because it increased the likelihood of the aphids encountering plants with this one critical gene variant. “We expected the diversity effect,” says lead author and University of Zurich ecologist Matt Barbour. “But the unexpectedly large effect of the single gene—that was surprising.”

***

"Conservation biologists have long known that diverse ecosystems are greater than the sum of their parts and that, in particular, they are more stable. Likewise, more genetically diverse populations of species are more likely to survive, thanks to an increased ability for them to adapt to a changing environment. The effect is akin to diversifying an investment portfolio: one cannot be sure which genes are going to lead to greater success as a population, so the more options one has, the more likely it is that something will come through.

"But the new findings point to a mechanism that could make genetic diversity critical for sustaining ecosystems. If specific gene variants—keystone genes—are lost from populations, other species could go extinct, not just the genes’ owners. “It isn’t really about genetic diversity but that, in having a diverse genetic pool, you’re increasing the chances of finding that singular important mutation,” Germain says. “That’s one of the things that’s cool about this paper—it might be something that not many ecologists have thought that much about.”

"Barbour says he does not suspect that keystone genes hold everyecosystem together. “I don’t expect them to be common,” he says. “But when they’re there, they’re going to be important.'”

Comment: the reason I presented this article is dhw's attitude about the need for food energy when he does not see to recognize how vital each system is for life to exist. These scientists did the study because of their concern that we might lose important systems. They are a vital part of the the living system that has been evolved over time that must support life. There is plenty of evidence about how humans unthinkingly damage systems

ecosystem importance: system 3.2 byo

by David Turell @, Friday, April 15, 2022, 20:29 (75 days ago) @ David Turell

Found in a deep mine:

https://www.sciencemagazinedigital.org/sciencemagazine/15_april_2022/MobilePagedArticle...

"Beneath the Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains, home to South Africa’s original gold rush, lies something more scientifically valuable than any precious metal: Earth’s first land ecosystem, trapped in a 3.2-billion-year-old rock formation called the Moodies Group. In roadcuts and mineshafts, scientists had already glimpsed fossilized remnants of the slimy microbial mats thought to have covered the ancient rivers, beaches, and estuaries. Now, they are drilling into the terrain for the first time, retrieving fresh samples of what may have been Earth’s first microbial producers of oxygen.

"The cores the team has already extracted, from deposits 200 meters below the surface, are rich in fossilized slimes. “We’ve drilled through hundreds of meters of them,” Heubeck says. Their nature, however, is a mystery.

"Other ancient microbial fossils in the Moodies Group, found in what were marine and subsurface deposits, probably fed on sulfates or used a primitive form of photosynthesis to feed on iron. But those metabolic pathways would not have worked well in the Sun-soaked shallow waters in which the slimes lived. Heubeck believes these microbes were early ancestors of cyanobacteria, which some 800 million years later flooded the atmosphere with oxygen in what’s called the Great Oxidation Event. “The production of oxygen appears to be a process invented early in Earth’s history,” he says.

"It’s a controversial claim. If oxygen producing photosynthesis had evolved so early, some researchers argue, the Great Oxidation Event would have promptly followed. But evidence for early “oxygen oases” has grown. Geochemists have found mineral deposits from well before the Great Oxidation Event that needed oxygen to form. And genetic analysis of cyanobacteria suggests they evolved, on land, around the same time as the Moodies Group, says Patricia Sanchez-Baracaldo, a paleobiologist at the University of Bristol who is unaffiliated with BASE. “The genomic record is independent and consistent with the idea that those were early ancestors of cyanobacteria.'”

Comment: that there may be oxygen production at that early stage is fascinating. Note that ecosystems formed so early. They must be present at all times for life to survive. dhw poopoos their importance as they relate to eventual human arrival. God understood exactly what He had to do in the time it took for Him to evolve humans by His designs.

ecosystem importance: parasite good influence

by David Turell @, Sunday, May 22, 2022, 16:09 (38 days ago) @ David Turell

Just of the opposite of which one might think:

https://www.sciencealert.com/non-deadly-parasites-suck-for-individuals-but-can-also-hav...

"'Parasites are well known for their negative impacts on the physiology and behavior of individual hosts and host populations, but these effects are rarely considered within the context of the broader ecosystems they inhabit," says Washington University biologist Amanda Koltz.

"Koltz and colleagues analyzed data from the well-studied plant, caribou and helminth (parasitic worm) system, using computer modeling and a global meta-analysis. They found that the non-lethal effects of some parasites, such as reduced feeding in hosts, had a more significant impact than lethal effects because they occur more commonly. (my bold)

"As these parasites and their impacts are so widespread, it all can add up to big consequences globally.

"Obviously, when lethal parasites wipe out populations it can have knock-on impacts on the surrounding environment, similar to predators taking their prey out of the picture. Removing either can completely alter an ecosystem's dynamics.

"...in the 19th century the rinderpest virus killed up to 90 percent of all domestic and wild cattle in sub-Saharan Africa, but a population increase after a successful vaccination campaign saw a decline in fire frequency – thanks to less undergrowth which the cattle ate – which in turn allowed more trees to grow.

"This is an example of a trophic cascade – an ecological domino effect triggered by changes to one part of the food chain that end up having much broader ramifications. In this case, the change in the trophic cascade shifted the sub-Saharan region from being an overall carbon source to a carbon sink, thanks to its increase in tree density.

***

"In the almost 60 studies the researchers analyzed, the helminth infections consistently put the caribou off their food, reducing their feeding rates (awesome for the plants they eat). In turn, this impacted the mammals' body condition and body mass, but on average did not impact their breeding or survival.

"What's more, the team's modeling suggests that when the helminth impacted a caribou's survival or feeding rate, it had a stabilizing effect on the plant-herbivore cycle, but if the parasitic worm impacted the herbivore's ability to breed, it was more likely to destabilize the system.

"'Given that helminth parasites are ubiquitous within free-living populations of ruminants, our findings suggest that global herbivory rates by ruminants are lower than they otherwise would be due to pervasive helminth infections," explains Koltz. "By reducing ruminant herbivory, these common infections may contribute to a greener world."

"'In short, diseases of herbivores matter to plants," concluded Washington University disease ecologist Rachel Penczykowski.

"Of course, this is just a single example in one system, and experimental fieldwork will be needed to establish the accuracy of the modeling and reveal the true scale of the trophic cascade impacts.

***

"'Our work highlights how the little things that can be unseen, like herbivore parasites, can shape large-scale processes like plant biomass across landscapes," says Classen." (my bold)

Comment: dhw diminishes the true understanding of why ecosystems had to evolve and stabilize by repeatedly stating his view of my theories as 'God only wanted humans and their food'. What a lack of understanding the point! The evolutionary process had to develop a giant interlocking bush of ecosystems, all related to each other. Recently I copied an article on Ediacaran ecosystems. They were always vital and served their purpose of providing food for all. That is why the question from dhw that 'God could have made humans at once and didn't' makes no sense upon real refection. Evolving over time means ecosystems evolving over time to support the developing complexity of organisms.

ecosystem importance: protecting diversity

by David Turell @, Monday, May 23, 2022, 18:33 (37 days ago) @ David Turell

An alarmed study to analyze impending diversity loss:

https://ecoevocommunity.nature.com/posts/anticipating-changes-in-biodiversity-on-an-inc...

"Human activity is producing an extensive and persistent effect on Earth. The accumulating evidence of changing disturbance regimes linked to human activity is alarming. Large shifts in features of individual disturbances and disturbance regimes are occurring, with further changes predicted for the future. Indeed, climate change and the increasing frequency of extreme weather events, urban air pollution, and contamination of oceans by plastic waste have dramatically raised awareness that both biodiversity and the human civilization face an existential environmental crisis. For example, wildfires have increased in area, intensity and frequency over the last two decades, impacting human lives, crops, and biodiversity. Twenty of the hottest years in history have occurred in the past 22 years, and extreme events like heat waves are projected to increase in frequency by more than an order of magnitude as climate change continues. All these changes in disturbance regimes are occurring concurrently with anthropogenic alternations of the global ecosystem such as global rises in temperatures, increased mass pollution events, deforestation and defaunation of ecosystems, and more wildland conversion for human use. Some, if not all, of these trends are expected to continue, while it is also likely that new disturbance regimes will arise, including the possibility of new types of disturbances that involve plastics, toxins, and agricultural chemicals. Although these trends seem inevitable in the short term, the design of mitigations strategies or policies for conservation could benefit from frameworks that can anticipate biodiversity changes under disturbed regimes.

***

"In ecology, disturbance is an event in time that disrupts the structure of a community by changing resources, substrate availability, or the physical environment. It is considered a major factor influencing biodiversity. While a disturbance may result in inhibition, injury, or death for some individuals in a community, it also creates opportunities for other individuals to grow or reproduce. Further, disturbances can profoundly alter trajectories of ecosystem dynamics and lead to unpredictable or undesired ecosystem responses. Indeed, how disturbance relates with stochastic and deterministic assembly mechanisms remains largely unknown, particularly under fluctuating disturbances. Given the growing human population and its impact on natural and engineered ecosystems, management and conservation practices are faced with increasing frequencies and magnitudes of various disturbances that occur on different scales. However, despite increases in the frequency, duration, and scale of disturbance events, predicting the outcome of disturbance remains a challenge. Thus, understanding how or why disturbances might enhance or reduce ecosystem vulnerability is an important area of concern as ecosystems are faced with rapid-paced environmental changes. (my bold)

***

"In a nutshell, we found stochastic assembly processes to be more important at intermediate disturbance frequencies where the highest α-diversity was also observed, together with high β-diversity dispersion across within-treatment replicates as predicted by the ISH. Furthermore, we observed that a peak in the relative contribution of stochasticity preceded the formation of a peak in α-diversity across a disturbance frequency range. This means that community assembly patterns during succession under disturbance can act as an early warning of upcoming patterns in diversity. Plus, stochastic assembly operating at intermediate levels of disturbance could be the reason why higher diversity does not necessarily mean better function. While these findings are encouraging, further research in a variety of ecosystems and scales is needed to validate the broad applicability of the ISH, which is why we encourage the scientific community to explore this framework." (my bold)

Comment: while not exactly on my point about the importance of diverse ecosystems and possible damage, the authors are developing a formula for future study and I've skipped that portion of the paper. What is clear is the degree of alarm. dhw's tunnel view of humans and their food simply tries to remove the problem from consideration. Life must have a diverse food supply at all times, all during the process of evolution. Viewed from the position of a progressive designer, he would understand the problem, provide a very diverse bush of complex ecosystems all through evolution from bacteria until the final arrival of an anticipated huge human population, huge because of the human extraordinary mental capacity. In dhw's view God dawdled along the way instead of getting right to it. What history presents is what I accept as God's doing. From that viewpoint, it makes perfect sense to a believer but apparently not to an outsider.

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