Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Carrots, extinction, spiders
Earlier this summer, I read David Quammen’s Song of the Dodo’s: Island Biogeography in the Age of Extinctions, whose thesis is that the world’s ecosystems are becoming a series of islands. This is grim news, because islands are where species go extinct to a much greater degree than on continental ecosystems. To simplify the book, island life is genetically isolated and extremely vulnerable to introduced species, not least of which is the destroying ape h. hardlysapiens. And, now, as I wandering through Laurie Olin’s Across the Open Field: Essays Drawn from English Landscapes, the same message comes again, told differently. Ecological systems of greater complexity survive much better more than ones of limited complexity. They are more resistant to instability and biological invasion. They are not islands. Monocultural agriculture (the handful of grains that feed the world), nature preserves, and captive breeding populations are all simple systems highly vulnerable to disruption. Tropical jungle, hardwood forests, and, Olin’s model, the English hedgerow, are all complex marvels. We know which ones are winning out today, so it should not be a surprise that we are living through a period of massive extinctions.
The spider that lives outside my bedroom window. A common house spider. Last week she captured a lady bug, which was bigger than she was. I do hope it was one of those damn invasive multicolored Asian Lady beetles. For the last two mornings, there has been a much smaller spider hanging around the cob-web. Is this a gentleman caller?