Biomass

Biomass, in ecology, is the mass of living biological organisms in a given area or ecosystem at a given time. Biomass can refer to species biomass, which is the mass of one or more species, or to community biomass, which is the mass of all species in the community. It can include microorganisms, plants or animals.[4] The mass can be expressed […]

Biomass, in ecology, is the mass of living biological organisms in a given area or ecosystem at a given time. Biomass can refer to species biomass, which is the mass of one or more species, or to community biomass, which is the mass of all species in the community. It can include microorganisms, plants or animals.[4] The mass can be expressed as the average mass per unit area, or as the total mass in the community.

How biomass is measured depends on why it is being measured. Sometimes the biomass is regarded as the natural mass of organisms in situ, just as they are. For example, in a salmon fishery, the salmon biomass might be regarded as the total wet weight the salmon would have if they were taken out of the water. In other contexts, biomass can be measured in terms of the dried organic mass, so perhaps only 30% of the actual weight might count, the rest being water. For other purposes, only biological tissues count, and teeth, bones and shells are excluded.

In stricter scientific applications, biomass is measured as the mass of organically bound carbon (C) that is present. Apart from bacteria, the total live biomass on earth is about 560 billion tonnes C,[1] and the total annual primary production of biomass is just over 100 billion tonnes C/yr.[5] However, the total live biomass of bacteria may exceed that of plants and animals.[6][7]

An ecological pyramid is a graphical representation which shows, for a given ecosystem, the relationship between biomass or biological productivity and trophic levels.

  • biomass pyramid shows the amount of biomass at each trophic level.
  • productivity pyramid shows the production or turn-over in biomass at each trophic level.

An ecological pyramid provides a snapshot in time of an ecological community.

The bottom of the pyramid represents the primary producers (autotrophs). The primary producers take energy from the environment in the form of sunlight or inorganic chemicals and use it to create energy-rich molecules such as carbohydrates. This mechanism is called primary production. The pyramid then proceeds through the various trophic levels to the apex predators at the top.

When energy is transferred from one trophic level to the next, typically only ten percent is used to build new biomass. The remaining ninety percent goes to metabolic processes or is dissipated as heat. This energy loss means that productivity pyramids are never inverted, and generally limits food chains to about six levels. However, in oceans, biomass pyramids can be wholly or partially inverted, with more biomass at higher levels.

Terrestrial biomass generally decreases markedly at each higher trophic level (plants, herbivores, carnivores). Examples of terrestrial producers are grasses, trees and shrubs. These have a much higher biomass than the animals that consume them, such as deer, zebras and insects. The level with the least biomass are the highest predators in the food chain, such as foxes and eagles.

In a temperate grassland, grasses and other plants are the primary producers at the bottom of the pyramid. Then come the primary consumers, grasshoppers, voles and bison, followed by the secondary consumers, shrews, hawks and small cats, and finally the tertiary consumers, large cats and wolves. The biomass pyramid is not inverted, but decreases markedly at each higher level.

There are typically 40 million bacterial cells in a gram of soil and a million bacterial cells in a millilitre of fresh water. In all, it has been estimated that there are about five million trillion trillion, or 5 × 1030 (5 nonillion) bacteria on Earth with a total biomass equaling that of plants.[12] Some researchers believe the total biomass of bacteria exceeds that of all plants and animals.[6][7]

Estimates for the global biomass of species and specie groups are not always consistent across the literature. Apart from bacteria, the total global biomass has been estimated at about 560 billion tonnes C.[1] Most of this biomass is found on land, with only 5 to 10 billion tonnes C found in the oceans.[1] On land there is about 1,000 times more plant biomass (phytomass) than animal biomass (zoomass). About 18% of this plant biomass is eaten by the land animals.[13] However in the ocean the animal biomass is nearly 30 times larger than the plant biomass.[14] Most ocean plant biomass is eaten by the ocean animals.[13]

Humans comprise about 100 million tonnes of the Earth’s dry biomass,[29] domesticated animals about 700 million tonnes, and crops about 2 billion tonnes.[citation needed] The most successfulanimal species, in terms of biomass, may well be Antarctic krillEuphausia superba, with a fresh biomass approaching 500 million tonnes,[26][30][31] although domestic cattle may also reach these immense figures[citation needed]. However, as a group, the small aquatic crustaceans called copepods may form the largest animal biomass on earth.[32] A 2009 paper in Science estimates, for the first time, the total world fish biomass as somewhere between 0.8 and 2.0 billion tonnes.[33][34] It has been estimated that about about 1% of the global biomass is due to phytoplankton,[35]and a staggering 25% is due to fungi.[36][37]

 

 


Habitat destruction

Uploaded on Mar 30, 2010 Murray Gell-Mann, the 2004-2005 Pardee Visiting Professor of Future Studies, argues that global problems cannot be considered in isolation, and he wonders about the best ways to separate environmental issues from those involving population growth.Run time 1:27 Hosted by Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future on September […]

Uploaded on Mar 30, 2010
Murray Gell-Mann, the 2004-2005 Pardee Visiting Professor of Future Studies, argues that global problems cannot be considered in isolation, and he wonders about the best ways to separate environmental issues from those involving population growth.Run time 1:27

Hosted by Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future on September 27, 2005.


News coverage of environmental issues can be difficult, in part, because those who are affected—whether the effect is economic or environmental—routinely exaggerate their claims. Non-governmental organization advocates pull “facts” in one direction; big
business tugs them in another, and sometimes neither leaves the cushy offices in the northwest section of Washington, D.C. Truth resides in a place somewhere in between.


Preventing illness is the best way to get health-care costs down. So why aren’t governments doing more to protect the environment? We’ve long known that environmental factors contribute to disease, especially contamination of air, water, and soil. Scientists are now learning the connection is stronger than we realized.

New research shows that 60 per cent of emerging infectious diseases affecting humans — those that rapidly increase in incidence or geographic range — start with animals, two thirds from wild animals. Lyme disease, West Nile virus, Ebola, SARS, AIDS… these are just a few of the hundreds of epidemics that have spread from animals to people. A study by the International Livestock Research Institute concludes that more than two-million people a year are killed by diseases that originated with wild and domestic animals. Many more become ill.


Habitat destruction is the process in which natural habitat is rendered functionally unable to support the species present. In this process, the organisms that previously used the site are displaced or destroyed, reducing biodiversity.[1] Habitat destruction by human activity is mainly for the purpose of harvesting natural resources for industry production andurbanization. Clearing habitats for agriculture is the principal cause of habitat destruction. Other important causes of habitat destruction include miningloggingtrawling and urban sprawl. Habitat destruction is currently ranked as the primary cause of species extinction worldwide.[2] It is a process of natural environmental change that may be caused byhabitat fragmentation, geological processes, climate change[1] or by human activities such as the introduction of invasive species, ecosystem nutrient depletion, and other human activities mentioned below.

The terms “habitat loss” and “habitat reduction” are also used in a wider sense, including loss of habitat from other factors, such as water and noise pollution.

Tropical rainforests have received most of the attention concerning the destruction of habitat. From the approximately 16 million square kilometers of tropical rainforest habitat that originally existed worldwide, less than 9 million square kilometers remain today.[8] The current rate of deforestation is 160,000 square kilometers per year, which equates to a loss of approximately 1% of original forest habitat each year.[10]

Other forest ecosystems have suffered as much or more destruction as tropical rainforestsFarming and logging have severely disturbed at least 94% of temperate broadleaf forests; many old growth forest stands have lost more than 98% of their previous area because of human activities.[8] Tropical deciduous dry forests are easier to clear and burn and are more suitable for agriculture and cattle ranchingthan tropical rainforests; consequently, less than 0.1% of dry forests in Central America’s Pacific Coast and less than 8% in Madagascarremain from their original extents.

Habitat destruction caused by humans includes conversion of land to agricultureurban sprawlinfrastructure development, and other anthropogenic changes to the characteristics of land. Habitat degradation, fragmentation, and pollution are aspects of habitat destruction caused by humans that do not necessarily involve overt destruction of habitat, yet result in habitat collapse. Desertificationdeforestation, and coral reef degradation are specific types of habitat destruction for those areas (desertsforestscoral reefs).

Geist and Lambin (2002) assessed 152 case studies of net losses of tropical forest cover to determine any patterns in the proximate and underlying causes of tropical deforestation. Their results, yielded as percentages of the case studies in which each parameter was a significant factor, provide a quantitative prioritization of which proximate and underlying causes were the most significant. The proximate causes were clustered into broad categories of agricultural expansion (96%), infrastructure expansion (72%), and wood extraction (67%). Therefore, according to this study, forest conversion to agriculture is the main land use change responsible for tropical deforestation. The specific categories reveal further insight into the specific causes of tropical deforestation: transport extension (64%), commercial wood extraction (52%), permanent cultivation (48%), cattle ranching (46%), shifting (slash and burn) cultivation (41%), subsistence agriculture(40%), and fuel wood extraction for domestic use (28%). One result is that shifting cultivation is not the primary cause of deforestation in all world regions, while transport extension (including the construction of new roads) is the largest single proximate factor responsible for deforestation.[16]

Drivers

Nanjing Road in Shanghai

While the above-mentioned activities are the proximal or direct causes of habitat destruction in that they actually destroy habitat, this still does not identify why humans destroy habitat. The forces that cause humans to destroy habitat are known as drivers of habitat destruction.Demographic, economic, sociopolitical, scientific and technological, and cultural drivers all contribute to habitat destruction.[15]

Demographic drivers include the expanding human population; rate of population increase over time; spatial distribution of people in a given area (urban versus rural), ecosystem type, and country; and the combined effects of poverty, age, family planning, gender, and education status of people in certain areas.[15] Most of the exponential human population growth worldwide is occurring in or close tobiodiversity hotspots.[7] This may explain why human population density accounts for 87.9% of the variation in numbers of threatened species across 114 countries, providing indisputable evidence that people play the largest role in decreasing biodiversity.[17] The boom in human population and migration of people into such species-rich regions are making conservation efforts not only more urgent but also more likely to conflict with local human interests.[7] The high local population density in such areas is directly correlated to the poverty status of the local people, most of whom lacking an education and family planning.[16]

From the Geist and Lambin (2002) study described in the previous section, the underlying driving forces were prioritized as follows (with the percent of the 152 cases the factor played a significant role in): economic factors (81%), institutional or policy factors (78%), technological factors (70%), cultural or socio-political factors (66%), and demographic factors (61%). The main economic factors included commercialization and growth of timber markets (68%), which are driven by national and international demands; urban industrial growth (38%); low domestic costs for land, labor, fuel, and timber (32%); and increases in product prices mainly for cash crops (25%). Institutional and policy factors included formal pro-deforestation policies on land development (40%), economic growth including colonization and infrastructure improvement (34%), and subsidies for land-based activities (26%); property rights and land-tenure insecurity (44%); and policy failures such as corruption, lawlessness, or mismanagement (42%). The main technological factor was the poor application of technology in the wood industry (45%), which leads to wasteful logging practices. Within the broad category of cultural and sociopolitical factors are public attitudes and values (63%), individual/household behavior (53%), public unconcern toward forest environments (43%), missing basic values (36%), and unconcern by individuals (32%). Demographic factors were the in-migration of colonizing settlers into sparsely populated forest areas (38%) and growing population density — a result of the first factor — in those areas (25%).

There are also feedbacks and interactions among the proximate and underlying causes of deforestation that can amplify the process. Road construction has the largest feedback effect, because it interacts with—and leads to—the establishment of new settlements and more people, which causes a growth in wood (logging) and food markets.[16] Growth in these markets, in turn, progresses the commercialization of agriculture and logging industries. When these industries become commercialized, they must become more efficient by utilizing larger or more modern machinery that often are worse on the habitat than traditional farming and logging methods. Either way, more land is cleared more rapidly for commercial markets. This common feedback example manifests just how closely related the proximate and underlying causes are to each other.

The rapid expansion of the global human population is increasing the world’s food requirement substantially. Simple logic instructs that more people will require more food. In fact, as the world’s population increases dramatically, agricultural output will need to increase by at least 50%, over the next 30 years.[19] In the past, continually moving to new land and soils provided a boost in food production to appease the global food demand. That easy fix will no longer be available, however, as more than 98% of all land suitable for agriculture is already in use or degraded beyond repair.[20]

The impending global food crisis will be a major source of habitat destruction. Commercial farmers are going to become desperate to produce more food from the same amount of land, so they will use more fertilizers and less concern for the environment to meet the market demand. Others will seek out new land or will convert other land-uses to agriculture. Agricultural intensification will become widespread at the cost of the environment and its inhabitants. Species will be pushed out of their habitat either directly by habitat destruction or indirectly by fragmentation, degradation, or pollution. Any efforts to protect the world’s remaining natural habitat and biodiversity will compete directly with humans’ growing demand for natural resources, especially new agricultural lands.


Ethology

Ethology (from Greek: ἦθος, ethos, “character”; and -λογία, -logia, “the study of”) is the scientific and objective study of animal behaviour, and is a sub-topic of zoology. The focus of ethology is on animal behaviour under natural conditions,[1] as opposed tobehaviourism, which focuses on behavioural response studies in a laboratory setting. Many naturalists have studied aspects of animal behaviour throughout history. The modern discipline of ethology is […]

Ethology (from Greek????ethos, “character”; and -?????-logia, “the study of”) is the scientific and objective study of animal behaviour, and is a sub-topic of zoology. The focus of ethology is on animal behaviour under natural conditions,[1] as opposed tobehaviourism, which focuses on behavioural response studies in a laboratory setting.

Many naturalists have studied aspects of animal behaviour throughout history. The modern discipline of ethology is generally considered to have begun during the 1930s with the work of Dutch biologist Nikolaas Tinbergen and by Austrian biologists Konrad Lorenz and Karl von Frisch, joint winners of the 1973 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.[2] Ethology is a combination of laboratory and field science, with a strong relation to some other disciplines such as neuroanatomyecology, and evolution. Ethologists are typically interested in a behavioural process rather than in a particular animal group, and often study one type of behaviour, such as aggression, in a number of unrelated animals.

The desire to understand animals has made ethology a rapidly growing field. Since the turn of the 21st century, many aspects ofanimal communicationanimal emotions, animal culture, learning, and even sexual conduct that experts long thought they understood, have been re-examined, and new conclusions reached. New fields have developed, such as neuroethology.

Understanding ethology or animal behaviour can be important in animal training. Considering the natural behaviours of different species or breeds enables the trainer to select the individuals best suited to perform the required task. It also enables the trainer to encourage the performance of naturally occurring behaviours and also the discontinuance of undesirable behaviours.


rhinoceros giants

The huge hornless Asiatic rhinos known as indricotheres were the largest land mammals that ever lived, wandering from Mongolia to Turkey across dry scrublands from 34-23 million years ago. Their sheer size poses many questions about how they lived, yet we can also make some educated guesses about their ecology based on the constraints on living mammals.

When I started my graduate career at the American Museum of Natural History in New York in 1976, I soon realized that I had stumbled upon an incredible opportunity. In addition to the world-famous fossil halls that have amazed generations of visitors, there are at least a hundred times as many fossils stored in research collections for study by qualified scientists. This is where the real work of paleontology takes place: specialists dedicated to the study of one group of organisms spending weeks to months to years examining every fossil in the collection, trying to reconstruct their anatomy, determine their relationships, and decipher what is the correct taxonomic name for any group of specimens. Without this fundamental work determining which species are valid, and when and where they lived, all other work in paleontology (especially computer models which are based on counting taxa studied by others and compiling them into databases) is “garbage in, garbage out.”

The American Museum is particularly important for such research, because it has the original collections of pioneering paleontologist Edward Drinker Cope, collected from the 1870s and 1880s, plus the huge numbers of fossils accumulated by its legendary paleontologists from 1895-1935 (Henry Fairfield Osborn, William Diller Matthew, Walter Granger, and others), as well as later collections obtained by the most brilliant paleontologist of the twentieth century, George Gaylord Simpson. The collections of dinosaurs, other reptiles, birds, amphibians, fish, and other vertebrates huge, but they are all outstripped by the gigantic collection of (mainly North American) fossil mammals. In the 1920s, the millionaire Childs Frick (son of the robber baron Henry Clay Frick, Andrew Carnegie’s partner) became interested in the origin of the mammals he used to shoot on big-game hunts. Starting about 1930 and for the next 35 years he used his wealth to pay for field crews to work year-round in the important fossil beds of the western United States, making giant collections from key localities and finding many more localities. Consequently, where we used to have just isolated teeth and jaws and maybe a skull of most mammals, the Frick Collection usually has many complete skulls or skeletons. This allows a paleontologist to see the complete anatomy of a particular mammal, examine variability within a population, and determine a much more informed and modern classification of names that had been based on isolated scraps of teeth described a century ago. Thus, most of the major groups of North American fossil mammals have to be completely restudied using the huge Frick Collection before we can make any conclusions about how many species existed, and when and where they lived.

To give you a sense of the size of the collection, there is a separate wing to house just the fossil mammals, built in an interior courtyard so it is invisible to the public. The fundraising and construction was started after Frick died in 1965, and not completed until shortly before I arrived in 1976. The Frick Wing has 10 floors altogether: an entire floor of rhinos, an entire floor of camels, an entire floor of horses, an entire floor of mastodonts and mammoths, three more floors of other groups of mammals, and the top three floors are the prep lab, the offices, classrooms, library, teaching collections, and other essential spaces. The horse floor is largely studied and published, but almost nothing has been done on the camel floor or the mastodont floor. When I arrived in 1976, the Museum’s curatorial assistant Dr. Earl Manning took me under his wing and introduced me to the study of North American rhinos, which had been neglected since the 1920s. At first we worked on projects together, but after he left in 1980, I continued working on the rhinos for another 25 years, finally publishing my comprehensive book-length monograph on them in 2005. Where once rhinos were a mess of invalid species, outdated names, mistaken identifications, and uncertain relationships, now they are one of the best-documented groups of North American mammals. Using my book, you can identify any bone of any North America rhino to genus and species.

In addition to the North American rhinos, I spent a lot of time looking at the gigantic specimens of the huge hornless Asian rhinos known as indricotheres. The American Museum has the best collection of them outside Beijing and Moscow, acquired by the legendary Central Asiatic Expeditions to Mongolia in the 1920s. After my 2005 North American rhino book, I thought it might be fun to write about these amazing creatures, which weighed as much as 20 metric tonnes, larger than the largest elephant or mammoth. When I had a sabbatical in late 2011, I finally had a chance to sit down and write a book about them, and the book has just appeared.

The first thing to realize is that much about what you see about extinct animals on TV documentaries is artistic guesswork, not based on any hard evidence. In the case of indricotheres, we have only the bones, and only partial skeletons at that. There is no direct information about the color of the animal, skin texture, what it ate, how it walked or how it behaved or sounded. All of this information, so often a crucial part of the CG animations that now dominate most documentaries about prehistoric life, are entirely conjectural and cannot be determined directly from the bones. The usual approach is to model indricotheres on the basis of living rhinos, with thick gray hairless skins with numerous folds, although we have no skin impressions or mummified specimens to test this idea, one way or another. The behavior and colors and sounds of the animals in these CG animations (such as in the documentary “Walking with Prehistoric Beasts”) are completely imaginary, and have no basis in any real-world data. Although most scientists are aware of this, a surprising number of people who watch these TV shows are stunned when they find out that so much of the show is pure fiction for entertainment, rather than science. The only real science in these shows is the interviews of expert paleontologists, and the pictures of bones and fossil localities.

Although most of the stuff you see in CG animations of prehistoric beasts (including the indricotheres) is mostly guesswork, there are living analogues that can give us some guidance about indricothere biology. The best models might be elephants, which approach indricotheres in body size. There are certain constraints about life at such large body size for elephants that must also apply to the indricotheres:

Thermoregulation: Elephants have a huge body volume and mass compared to their surface area (remember, volume increases as a cube while area only increases as a square). As the debate about hot-blooded dinosaurs back in the 1980s revealed, such huge animals with an endothermic physiology (that is, they generate their own body heat from metabolism) have a severe problem getting rid of excess body heat, especially if they live in warm climates. Living elephants have huge ears as radiators to shed excess body heat from their bloodstream, and it is reasonable to infer that indricotheres did too. African elephants and rhinos and hippos spend much of their daytime resting in the shade or wallowing in waterholes and mud puddles to cool down, and so must have the indricotheres. Elephants, rhinos and hippos feed and move mainly at night, as indricotheres must have done. Elephants and rhinos both have largely naked skin since hair holds in body heat, which is why such elephant-like naked gray skin seems appropriate for indricotheres. Large-bodied endothermic mammals are in a constant battle to dump body heat and avoid overheating.

Digestion: There are certain other constraints for large-bodied herbivores as well. All herbivores eat large amounts of cellulose in their diets, which is a relatively indigestible carbohydrate. Most plant eaters must use some kind of specialized gut bacterium in their digestive tract to break down the cellulose and release the nutrients. Such a breakdown requires fermentation, and takes time to absorb the nutrients from the fermentation process into the lining of the intestines. There are two basic types of herbivore digestion: foregut fermenters and hindgut fermenters.

The only living foregut fermenters are the ruminant artiodactyls (camels, cattle, sheep, goats, antelopes, deer, and pronghorns), which do this by “ruminating” using a four-chambered stomach. The first chamber, the rumen, is a digestive vat full of bacteria, so that when they swallow a bite of partially chewed plant material, it goes immediately into the rumen where it begins bacterial breakdown. Later, when they are resting, ruminants regurgitate some of the contents of their rumen back into their mouths, where they can “chew their cud” and break the material down further, before swallowing it again. By the time the food reaches the lining of their intestines, it is highly broken down into nutrients and easily absorbed. Thus, ruminants use nearly every bit of their food efficiently, and can survive on relatively small amounts of good-quality vegetation. But if they eat too much high-quality vegetation, they can become bloated and their rumen can swell and even rupture and kill them with all the gas released from the rapid bacterial fermentation.

The remaining herbivorous mammals are hindgut fermenters. These include the perissodactyls (odd-toed hoofed mammals, today including the horses, tapirs and rhinos), the elephants, the non-ruminant artiodactyls (pigs, peccaries, and hippos), and other herbivores such as rabbits and some primates. Instead of a highly specialized foregut with a rumen, they have the normal mammalian digestive tract, with an esophagus, acid-filled stomach, and then intestines for absorption. Most have a pouch off the intestine called a caecum that is the primary location of bacterial fermentation.  Lacking a rumen, the hindgut fermenters pass the mostly undigested cellulose through the digestive tract until it reaches the caecum, but bacterial fermentation only just starts in the caecum before the food goes through the remaining intestines and is then excreted. Consequently, they get relatively little nutrition out of each bite of fodder, and must eat much larger volumes of mostly low-quality food (especially grasses) to get enough to live on. Most hindgut fermenters, like horses, rhinos, and elephants, are by necessity be high-volume low-efficiency eaters, and eat huge volumes of material just to survive, since they are so poor at extracting the nutrients. When you see the feces of these animals (like the “road apples” of horses), they are typically full of undigested plant matter compared to the “cowpies” of a ruminant, or the tiny pellets of a deer or pronghorn. Rabbits are a special case. If you have ever kept rabbits in a hutch, you will notice that they eat their own feces. This gives them a chance to run the food through their gut a second time after the bacterial fermentation has had time to work, and get more nutrition this way.

For these reasons, there are certain things we can say with confidence about indricothere feeding dynamics. Because they were not ruminant artiodactyls, they had to be hindgut fermenters, like horses, other rhinos, and elephants, so they must have consumed and processed huge amounts of food in a day, just as elephants do now. Their feces would have been full of undigested plant material, just like those of a horse or an elephant. Like almost all large herbivores, they must have had a big part of their abdomen occupied by their large digestive tract, giving them a large bulging “gut” like that of an elephant. The fermentation in their gut, by the way, creates additional body heat, which exacerbates the problems they have of producing excess body heat to begin with.

Locomotion and Home Range: As an animal increases in body size, the stresses on their limb bones increases even more because of the power of three expansion of volume and the corresponding mass increase. Models of the dynamics of large dinosaurs show that they could not have run very fast, or their limbs would break. Modern elephants also cannot run very fast compared to true specialized runners like antelopes, horses or cheetahs. Their maximum speed in an all-out charge clocked at only 18 mph (29 kph), but their normal walking speed is about 6-12 mph (10-19 kph). Remember, they have an advantage in their speed because they have much longer limbs and strides than any other animal. Given that indricotheres were just slightly larger than modern elephants, we can predict that they too would have not been fast runners, but ambled along at a moderate pace like that of an elephant.

However, African elephants are capable to moving enormous distances (typically 20 miles or 32 km) in the course of a day, migrating from one food source to another. To support their food needs of about 300 pounds (140 kg) of food they consume in the 16 hours of each day they eat, elephants need huge home ranges of 300-600 square miles (750-1500 square km). Consequently, huge home ranges and long migrations would be expected of indricotheres as well, especially if they lived in a harsh desert scrub setting with scarce food sources that were easily wiped out. A similar model has been proposed for the large sauropod dinosaurs, which lived in a scrubby, semi-arid habitat in the Late Jurassic time (Morrison Formation), and probably roamed in small herds from one patch of trees to another.

Predators and Life Habits: Certain other ecological parameters are also dictated by the giant body sizes of elephants and indricotheres. Once they reach a large enough body size, healthy modern elephants have no natural predators—not even lions or tigers are foolish enough to tackle them. (This has all changed now with human poaching, which has nearly wiped out elephants in the wild). Only the babies and young calves are vulnerable to predators, and in elephant herds, there is a strong matriarchal hierarchy so that every calf is closely protected not only by its mother, but also by its sisters, grandmother, aunts, great-aunts, and other close female relatives. All non-human predation of elephants in the wild occurs when predators catch vulnerable calves.  Almost a quarter of the calves born to Asian elephants are lost to tigers before they reach their first birthday. If indricotheres maintained small herds in the elephant mode, such freedom from predation except for the young would also be true. However, in the Bugti beds there are gigantic crocodiles (Crocodylus bugtiensis) that are 10-11 m (33-36 feet) long! These would have been large enough to attack almost any indricothere that might be at the edge of the river to drink. Indeed, many of the specimens from the Bugti beds have crocodile tooth marks on them.

There is also a well-known relationship between the gestation period, size of the litter, and body size. Elephants have the longest gestation period of any land creature (22-24 months, or about two years). The females do not reach sexual maturity until they are ten years old, and may produce a single calf every three to four years, the slowest reproductive rate of any mammal. Such could be expected of indricotheres as well, since growing to such large body sizes, and having such large calves, is very similar to the constraints on elephant reproduction. Like elephants, indricotheres would be expected to grow quickly at first, then grow relatively slowly once they reached maturity.

There is also a strong relationship between body size, metabolic rate, and blood pressure. An elephant has a relatively slow metabolic rate. Its heart beats only 30 times per minute, while humans have a pulse of 60 beats per minute, and hamsters have a pulse rate of over 450 beats per minute! The indricothere heart would have had a pulse rate close to that of an elephant, but probably a bit higher. This is because it must have also been able to exert a blood pressure close to the 300 mm Hg that giraffes produce (humans typically have a blood pressure of 120) to be able to lift its head so far above the ground without fainting.

Finally, there is also a well-known scaling of longevity with body size, with larger animals (and their slower heart rates) living longer. A rodent typically lives no longer than 3-5 years, a cat or a goat about 15 years, pig or monkey about 20-25 years, and a cow or giraffe about 25-30 years. Elephants typically live 35-50 years in the wild (at least they did until recent years, when poaching has nearly wiped them out), and the record is 71 years. Similar lifespans could be expected of indricotheres as well.

Suicidal Behavior

Leaked IPCC Draft Report: Recent Warming Is Manmade, Cloud Feedback Is Positive, Inaction Is Suicidal By Joe Romm and Climate Guest Blogger on Dec 16, 2012 at 2:26 pm The draft 2013 Fifth Assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on … Continue reading

Leaked IPCC Draft Report: Recent Warming Is Manmade, Cloud Feedback Is Positive, Inaction Is Suicidal

By Joe Romm and Climate Guest Blogger on Dec 16, 2012 at 2:26 pm

RCPs1

Figure SPM.6.a. Warming in two IPCC scenarios reveals humanity’s choice. With aggressive action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (RCP 2.6 with 443 ppm of CO2 in 2100), warming is modest and adaptation is plausible. With continued inaction (RCP 8.5 with 936 ppm in 2100), warming is a catastrophic and unmanageable 10°F over much of Earth’s habited and arable land — and more than 15°F over the Arctic. This projection ignores many key amplifying feedbacks, such as the release of permafrost carbon, which would likely lead to far greater warming.

The draft 2013 Fifth Assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change leaked this week makes clear inaction on climate change would be devastating to modern civilization. The report finds that the human fingerprint on climate has grown more obvious, concluding “it is virtually certain” the energy imbalance that causes global warming “is caused by human activities, primarily by the increase in CO2 concentrations. There is very high confidence that natural forcing contributes only a small fraction to this imbalance.”

Suicide is the act of taking one’s own life on purpose. Suicidal behavior is any action that could cause a person to die, such as taking a drug overdose or crashing a car on purpose.

Suicide and suicidal behaviors usually occur in people with one or more of the following:

  • Drug dependence
  • Schizophrenia
  • Stressful life issues, such as serious financial or relationship problems

Suicidal behaviors may occur when there is a situation or event that the person finds overwhelming, such as:

  • Dependence on drugs
  • Unemployment or money problems

People who are at risk for suicidal behavior may not seek treatment for many reasons, including:

  • They believe nothing will help
  • They do not want to tell anyone they have problems
  • They think asking for help is a sign of weakness
  • They do not know where to go for help

By Barbara Lewis and Valerie Volcovici
BRUSSELS/WASHINGTON | Sun Dec 9, 2012 4:10am EST
(Reuters) – The European Union’s landmark effort to charge foreign airlines for carbon emitted on flights in and out of Europe was already failing by the time French President Francois Hollande shared his deep concerns with the European Commission chief in October.

The U.S. aviation industry had mustered fierce political opposition, China was threatening to withhold aircraft orders from Airbus and the most influential European nations feared retaliation against their national carriers. Chinese and Indian airlines refused to submit emissions data; U.S. lawmakers were readying a law that could make it illegal to pay the tariff.

Ultimately it came down to an economy-versus-environment debate, with issues of national sovereignty and freedom of the skies also playing a decisive role in grounding the effort for now, to the relief of global carriers and airplane makers whose businesses stood to lose out.

Direct pressure from the EU’s three most powerful members, and France in particular, forced an abrupt one-year postponement of one of the most contentious efforts to curb global greenhouse gas emissions since the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, according to European sources familiar with the negotiations.

Hollande, nervous about the possible job losses at major French and European employer Airbus, raised the issue with EC President Jose Manuel Barroso at a meeting in Brussels in October, one of dozens of such encounters focused mainly on taming the debt crisis, one of the sources said.

Barroso decided the EC needed to make its move before the United States finalized a law that would formally shield its airlines from complying “so as not to be seen to be pushed,” said the source, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the disclosures.

Weeks later, on November 12, EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard told a hastily convened news conference that she was “stopping the clock” for a year before enforcing the law, a painful about-face on a signature initiative that has become the latest example of how difficult it remains to tackle climate change globally.


Drawings by Pawel Kuczynski

These drawings are from Polish artist Pawel Kuczynski. Pawel was born in 1976 in Szczecin. He graduated the Fine Arts Academy in Poznan with specialization in graphics. He is famous for his satirical illustrations that should shock you

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These drawings are from Polish artist Pawel Kuczynski.

Pawel was born in 1976 in Szczecin. He graduated the Fine Arts Academy in Poznan with specialization in graphics.

He is famous for his satirical illustrations that should shock you


Back to the Start

http://youtu.be/aMfSGt6rHos

Coldplay’s haunting classic ‘The Scientist’ is performed by country music legend Willie Nelson for the soundtrack of the short film entitled, «Back to the Start.» Download the song now available on iTunes. Label and proceeds benefit The Chipotle Cultivate Foundation. http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/the-scientist-single/id458479961

The film, by film-maker Johnny Kelly, depicts the life of a farmer as he slowly turns his family farm into an industrial animal factory before seeing the errors of his ways and opting for a more sustainable future. Both the film and the soundtrack were commissioned by Chipotle to emphasize the importance of developing a sustainable food system.

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Coldplay’s haunting classic ‘The Scientist’ is performed by country music legend Willie Nelson for the soundtrack of the short film entitled, “Back to the Start.” Download the song now available on iTunes. Label and proceeds benefit The Chipotle Cultivate Foundation.

The film, by film-maker Johnny Kelly, depicts the life of a farmer as he slowly turns his family farm into an industrial animal factory before seeing the errors of his ways and opting for a more sustainable future. Both the film and the soundtrack were commissioned by Chipotle to emphasize the importance of developing a sustainable food system.


fish die in the millions in Gutian

Mystery abounds as fish die in the millions in Gutian, Fujian Province. A foul smell has filled the air in Gutian County, Fujian Province, but the cause of the stench is still a mystery. The Xinhua News Agency reported Sunday … Continue reading

Mystery abounds as fish die in the millions in Gutian, Fujian Province.

A foul smell has filled the air in Gutian County, Fujian Province, but the cause of the stench is still a mystery. The Xinhua News Agency reported Sunday more than 9,000 tanks worth of fish have died since Septmber 1 in the Gutian section of the Minjiang River.

The dead fish were mainly found in Huangtian and Shuikou townships in Gutian County.

Xinhua reported Sunday that Tens of millions of dead fish, estimated to be worth 200 million yuan ($ 31,333,000), were floating in the water in Shuikou township.

Huang Dexing, a fisherman in Gutian County, said he has hatched 20,000 grass carps and they died in just two days.

According to Xinhua, dead fish were also found downstream in Xiongjiang township on Saturday. Many fishermen said they want an investigation to find out why the fish perished.

Authorities from Shuikou township said they do not know why the fish died, and haven’t worked out any compensation plans.

Experts from Ningde and the province’s Department of Oceans and Fisheries and the province’s Department of Environmental Protection said they have talked about the issue, but at this time are unclear about the cause.

A spokesman told the Global Times that the mayor of Ningde, Liao Xiaojun, and the city’s Party chief, Chen Rongkai, had been to Gutian County to further investigate the matter.

The local government has begun to clean up the river, including the dead fish, using environmentally safe methods, such as quicklime. Gong also said the local governments have earmarked 1,500,000 yuan, 1 million yuan from the county government and 500,000 yuan from the city government, to drag, treat and bury the fish.

“If it was not caused by the fish farmers, the local governments will compensate them,” Gong said.