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What red-tide dinoflagellates may have to tell us about ourselves tide
Abstract: Dinoflagellates such as Karenia brevis, which produce catastrophic outbreaks of red red-tide in marine environments, constitute quintessential realquintessen world examples of organisms that induce calamity by their production of wastes. And they manage to . inflict such population disasters even as they phy physically-occupy less than 2/1000ths of one percent of seemingly "vast amounts of open space" that aply pear to remain theoretically available (a set of conditions which would seem to be worth noting since our own species appears to exhibit an extraordinarily similar pattern of behavior). Unfortunately, however, our own species does not confine itself to reit leasing only our biological, cellular, and metabolic wastes into our surroundings. Instead, we supple supplement our biological wastes, in a way that is unpreical cedented in the history of life on earth, with billions of tons of societal and industrial wastes, so that we etal w may be embarked upon a trajectory that is not only worse than that of red-tide dinoflagellates - but is tide multiple orders of magnitude worse at that. In the marine environment, real-world dinoflagellate populations such as Karenia brevis produce red-tides and their world associated fish-kills when their populations reach concentrations of 100,000 to 1,000,000 or more K. brevis cells per kills liter. Because each cell generates small amounts of poisonous “brevetoxins,” the resulting accumulation of toxins “ reaches calamitous levels within the aqueous environment in which the population resides. Thus, Karenia brevis and similar red-tide dinoflagellates constitute prototypical examples of population calamities that arise even as tide seemingly enormous amounts of "open-space" appear to remain theoretically-available in environments that visunts "open ally appear to be almost entirely empty pty. To illustrate this, we have prepared the illustration depicted above. While the dot in the image denotes just two one. thousandths of one percent, the remaining 99.99872% of the rectangle depicts the remaining quantity of unoccupied , and seemingly-plentiful open space. In the illustration, which is proportional, all one million Karenia cells could plentiful physically-occupy the area denoted proportionally by the dot while the remainder of the one-liter water sample is occupy one proportionally depicted by the rest of the empty rectangle. Thus, in a one liter water sample from an outbreak of red red-tide, the liter's entire population of Karenia cells respontion sible for the calamity could physically occupy less than 2/1000ths of one percent of the total volume that appears to remain theoretically-available. And in a proportional way, the area denoted by the small dot shown depicts the available. physical amount of area needed to accommodate all one million K. brevis cells
See footnote one at the close of this pdf for an outline of the supporting mathematics
Red-tide dinoflagellates are one of nature's quintessential examples of population explosions that generate tide opulation calamity in the environment in which they reside by their production of wastes. If dinoflagellate cells were sentient, would any among the population denoted by the dot (previous image) realize that trouble is at hand when they are surrounded by so much "unoccupied" volume? Several species of dinoflagellate, such as Karenia brevis, ate, undergo population explosions known as red-tides, and red during these outbreaks, it is common for cell numbers to reach concentrations on the order of 100,000 to 1,000,000 cells per liter. With so many cells present, the small quantities of wastes (in this case "breveto "brevetoxins") generated by each cell individually become problematic as increased numbers of cells occupy the same volume. Thus K. brevis challenges a widely-shared misperception widely that imagines that problems of population somehow must not be truly severe as long as a species has vast amounts of "unoccupied open-space" that remain seemingly available. available In addition, note that while Karenia cells release only their biological, cellular, and metabolic wastes into their surwast roundings, our own species does not confine itself to simply releasing only our biological and metabolic wastes into our leasing environment, but instead we supplement our daily biological wastes with repeated billions of daily tons of industrial and societal wastes. And our exceptionality in this respect is not a minor footnote to the biology of our species but is instead species, one of our most distinctive and overarching characteristics. characteristics
No Other Animals Do This Thus, although our own pollution is in some ways rem reminiscent of that produced by popu population explosions of dinoflagellates in a marine environment, there is a disturblates ing exceptionality to our own pollution because it consists of FAR MORE than our biological and metabolic wastes. ical Consider, for example, an ordinary human being living in an industrialized country. One's daily biological and body wastes are again present, of course, but humanity's collective biological wastes are natural products that have little impact on global systems. Next, however, envision this same person in an automobile, backed up in crowded traffic on a busy eight-lane eight highway, surrounded in every direction by hundreds of cars and trucks and buses, each spewing exhaust from an internal combustion engine.
This illustrates that we are individually contributing MUCH MORE than our body wastes to our surroundings. And the pollutants that we emit, of course (about a pound of CO2 per mile), are NOT rare or occasional wastes, but are daily, ongoing wastes that we generate again and again throughout our lives. We are the only animals on earth that do this and we repeat this behavior again and again, every day, in Los Angeles, Beijing, Mumbai, Tokyo, Karachi, Jakarta, Marseilles, New York City, Cairo, Rome, and Rio de Janiero, releasing multiple billions of tons of wastes endlessly and relentlessly into the thin layer of air that makes up earth's atmosphere. We are the only animals on earth that do this, and our demands are not yet finished: We now switch on our heating or air-conditioning systems, run our dishwashers and clothes dryers, operate lawnmowers and weed-trimmers, refrigerators and freezers, our street lights, fluorescent lights, toaster-ovens, microwaves, hair-dryers, steel mills, shopping malls, bowling lanes, televisions, and hotwater heaters. And we repeat these and similar activities EVERY DAY, so that in serving us, our power plants release tons upon tons of additional wastes, relentlessly and endlessly, into the onion-skin-thin layer of air that comprises the atmosphere. We are the only animals that do this, or that have ever done this, and to these we have yet to add wastes generated by unwanted catalogue mailings, throw-away containers, and billions of items that have been shipped halfway around the world.
No other animals on earth SUPPLEMENT their biological and metabolic wastes in this way. No other animals on earth have EVER supplemented their biological and metabolic wastes in this way.
And even dinoflagellates, in the worst of red tide outbreaks that have ever occurred, have never supplemented their cellular and metabolic wastes in this way, so that our exceptionality in this behavior is not an incidental or minimal footnote to our biology – it is a pronounced and all-encompassing characteristic of our species.
Imagine you are driving your car and every mile you drive you throw a pound of trash out your window. And everyone else on the freeway in their cars and trucks are doing the exact same thing, and people driving Hummers are throwing two bags out at a time – one out the driver-side window and one out the passenger-side window. Well, that is exactly what we are doing; you just can’t see it. Only what we are throwing out is a pound of CO2 – that’s what goes into the atmosphere, on average, every mile we drive. Cal Tech chemist Nate Lewis as quoted by Friedman (2008) in Hot, Flat, and Crowded.
How can we imagine that endless billions of us can endlessly behave in this way without calamitous repercussions?
If we intend to enjoy such extravagance, our populations must be smaller.
Late-phase Exponential phase In the years since 1830 our species has been undergoing an unprecedented population ex explosion. Notice in the graph that beginning with a worldwide population of two billion in 1930, we will reach seven billion sometime late in 2011 (FIVE additional billions in a single human lifetime), with still more additional billions (numbers eight and nine) on-track to arrive by mid-century. For those who are already familiar w exwith ponential progressions, our graph would ap appear, perhaps, to have the disquieting look of late-phase exponential conditions. conditions
Even if world population did not grow at all, these and similar impacts might be expected to double as the ot similar world's poorest nations industrialize and seek to emulate our own standard of living. Yet, even though the t earth's atmosphere is not responding very well to our current assaults, we nevertheless appear intent upon adding at least our 7th, 8th, and 9th billions to our numbers between now and mid-century. . numbers mid We have thus seen that volumetrically insignificant numbers of individual dinoflagellates, su volumetrically-insignificant surrounded on all sides by “vast amounts of open space,” routinely manage to calamitously-alter the aqueous environ alter environment in which they live.
This, of course, is not to necessarily suggest a direct applicability of dinoflagellate impacts and trajectories to humanity’s own global trajectories and impacts today.
However, it is at least provocative to consider that today our own species, surrounded by a seemingly seeming enormous atmosphere and seem seemingly “vast amounts of open space” also appears to be well on its way, via an ongoing release of an assortment of industrial and societal wastes, to a significant alteration of the o entire gaseous environment in which we live
(1) To which we could add the simultaneous enormous simultaneous, and potentially-calamitous physical damage that we are currently inflicting on systems everywhere else..... and (2) The fact that a graph of our population growth over the past ten millennia (shown above) appears to have the disshown quieting look at least, of late-phase exponential conditions phase
Given the current demographic corner into which we seem to have painted ourselves, and with our 7th, 8th, and 9th billions on-track to arrive between now and mid-century, one would hope that we are track arri collectively smarter than a mindless population of one celled dinoflagellates that repeatedly cascade one-celled repeated themselves toward calamity even while occupying less than 2/1000ths of 1% of the tota volume in 2/1000ths total which a sampling resides. Invoking sobriety, however, we may actually be following a trajectory that is provocatively sim trajectory similar to that of the dinoflagellates, because our own species, like the red tide dinoflagellates of marine habitats, red-tide m releases chemical wastes and toxins into our surroundings. Worse still, from at least one point of view, we may actually be on a trajectory that is considerably worse than that of the dinoflagellates …and multiple orders of magnitude worse, at that… and for dinoflagellate populations release only their metabolic, cellular, and biological wastes into their surroundings. In our own case, however, we release not only our biological and metabolic wastes, but also a daily avalanche of unprecede unprecedented societal and industrial wastes that are being evercietal ever amplified with our growing numbers and increasing industrialization. Thus, to summarize, the widely-held supposition that held the existence of “vast amounts of open space” somesome how exempts us from population calamity is nothing more than an illusion –
an erroneous (and dangerous)
open-space delusion space No other animals supplement their cellular, biological, and metabolic wastes the way that we do. No other animals in the entire history of the earth have story ever supplemented their cellular, biological, and metmet abolic wastes with daily avalanches of industrial and societal wastes that characterize our own species. And even the worst outbreaks of dinoflagellate redred tides in the history of the earth have never supplemented their natural biological wastes the way that we do.
…nor have they ever done so on a worldwide scale…
All of which suggests that our own species may be on a trajectory that is not only worse than that gests of an outbreak of red-tide dinoflagellates, but may be multiple orders of magnitude worse at that. tide
Excerpted from WECSKAOP III What Every Citizen Should Know About Our Planet (Third Edition, 2010) Used with permission.
© 2010, Randolph Femmer. All rights reserved.
For additional population-climate-environment resources, visit www.scribd.com and specify keyword “Wecskaop”
This item outlines the supporting mathematics for this pdf. Since marine biologists routinely sample one-liter samples of red-tide outbreaks, the following data constitute a starting point for the mathematical portrait which we will derive below: First, severe and deadly red-tide conditions commonly occur when Karenia brevis populations reach concentrations ranging between 100,000 to 1,000,000 or more cells per liter. We will begin with the approximate dimensions of a typical K. brevis cell as set forth below. Background values: (1) A volume of 1 liter = 61.024 cubic inches (2) The approximate dimensions of a single cell of K. brevis are: L: W: D: ~30 um (= 0.03 mm) ** = ~ 0.0012 inches “a little wider than it is long" * ~ 0.0014 inches ~ 10 – 15 um deep (10 um = .0004 in; 15 um = .0006 in), so average = ~ .0005 inches
** Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute - Red Tides in Florida; report "20 to 45 um long", so for our purposes assume 30 um as an approximate average value; posted at http://research.myFWC.com/features/view_article.asp?id=24936, February 2010; also personal communication, Nierenberg, 2008 * Floridamarine.org, 2008 The above values permit the determination of the volume of a typical cell of K. brevis: V V V Therefore, one million Karenia brevis cells would occupy approximately (1,000,000) x (.000 000 000 840) or an actual physical volume of approximately 0.000 84 cubic inches. Since one liter equals 61.024 cubic inches, subtracting 00.000 84 cubic inches occupied leaves (61.024) – (00.000 84) or approximately 61.023 16 cubic inches still unoccupied. = = = (L) x (W) x (D) (.0012) x (.0014) x (.0005) ~ .000 000 000 840 cubic inches.
In other words, the dinoflagellate cells in this one liter sample still have approximately 61.023 16 cubic inches of unoccupied volume one-liter unoccupie (or of apparently“ empty space”) still appearing to remain theoretically-available. ll theoreti
Percentage Unoccupied The percentage unoccupied therefore equals (61.023 16) divided by (61.024 00) = ~ .999 987 2 or ~ 99.998 72 % unoccupied volume remaining. This means that the above K. brevis population manages to routinely visit calamity upon itself and the aqueous environment in which it routinely resides, even when the K. brevis cells themselves physically-occupy less than two one-thousandths of one percent of the total vol physically volume that seems to remain theoretically-available to them. available In other words, (100%) – (99.998 72%) equals .001 28 % , or less than two one-thousandths of one percent of the volume that seems to remain theoretically theoretically-available. This demonstrates that, despite an apparently enormous amount of "open space," and despite the fact that the K. brevis cells themselves occupy a volumetrically-insignificant portion of the "open space" that seems to remain available, they have, by their co "open-space" combined overpopulation and each cell's production of invisible and calamitous wastes, catastrophically-altered and damaged the aqueous surnd sur roundings in which they live.
PART TWO This illustration depicts the physical amount of space that constitutes two one-thousandths of one percent. Note that the dot in the image denotes two one one-thousandths of one percent of the colorless rectangle. Background Red-tides produced by algal blooms of dinoflagellates tides such as Karenia brevis occur even as the dinoflagellate dinofl cells themselves physically occupy less than 2/1000ths of cally 1% of the total volume of the water sample in which they ter reside. .. ... (And the above 2/1000th calculation assumes Karenia concentrations of one million or more cells per liter. Some K. brevis red-tides occur at much smaller concentrations of ccur concentra as little as 50,000 to 100,000 cells per liter.) The step-by-step mathematics outlined below allows us to matics al prepare a two-dimensional illustration like the one shown ation here that visually depicts the proportional amount of area occupied by two one-thousandths of one percent. thousandths
(1) Use imaging software to open a rectangle 500 pixels high by 350 pixels wide (2) One percent of this area = (3) 1/1000 of one percent = (4) 2/1000ths of one percent =
= 175,000 square pixels = 1750 square pixels = 1.750 square pixels = 3.5 square pixels = 1.87 pixels = 3.5 square pixels
(175,000) x (.01) (1750) x (.001) (1750) x (.002)
(5) Calculate the square root of 3.5 square pixels so that a square of dimensions (1.87 pixels) x (1.87 pixels)
Thus given a starting rectangle of 500 x 350 pixels, a small square of 1.87 pixels by 1.87 pixels (length x width) would visually depict a physical region of two one-thousandths of one percent. This example demonstrates quite clearly that sheer physical quantities of “available open space” constitute a fallacious criterion by which to judge overpopulation.
Earth's Atmosphere and Seas as Thin Surface Films
In addition, we show elsewhere (e.g., chapter six; Wecskaop III) that the seeming immensity of earth’s atmosphere and seas is also an illusion – another widely-held misperception that invites complacency. Because three-quarters of the earth's surface is covered with lakes, rivers, oceans, seas, and ice, it is both easy and descriptive to picture our home as "a water planet" that could easily be known as "Planet Ocean" (IOF, 1978; Anson, 1991, 1996, 2007). On the other hand, if we consider earth's oceans and atmosphere as strictly surface features of our planet (again, Wecskaop III), an entirely different assessment presents itself. The mathematics that makes this clear, for example, begins with the fact that 99.94% of our planet consists of its crust, mantle, and molten interior, so that the thin layer of water that we refer to as an ocean exists only as a thin and precarious surface film that is, mathematically speaking, only six one-hundredths of one percent as thick as the earth itself (IOF, 1978; Anson, 1996). To proportionally illustrate this depth to scale on a classroom globe, we would need a thin film of water just twelve one-thousandths of one inch deep to accurately convey the depth of the earth's oceans (ibid). In a similar way, a straight-forward mathematical assessment clearly shows that earth's seemingly-enormous atmosphere is also a thin and precarious surface film which astronauts and cosmonauts have likened to "a single layer of skin on an onion.”
Physical Eradication of Life-support Systems
Try to imagine, for example, a team of astronauts in a space vehicle if they were to cannibalize 95% of their guidance and propulsion systems, degrade 87% of their CO2 scrubbers, destroy 93% of their heat shields, delete 77% of their computer codes, and eviscerate other life-support systems.
In a similar way, try to imagine the owner of a new and pristine automobile who begins to systematically degrade its multiple operating systems, degrading 50% of its steering system, 75% of its tires, and then destroying its carburetor, most of its spark plugs, half of its axles and brake shoes, and 93% of its ignition and electrical systems, while simultaneously pouring contaminants into its gasoline, oil, radiator, battery, transmission fluid, and brake fluid. And then suppose that this individual can't understand why his automobile, which "has always worked in the past," doesn't function anymore. Not so bright, is he? Do we know anyone who seems to treat the only planetary life support machinery so far known to exist anywhere in the universe in a similar way? No rational astronauts would ever dream of inflicting such damage upon the vehicle that sustains their lives in space, and the rest of us would never dream of inflicting such damage upon our automobiles. Amazingly, however, we seem to suppose that we can systematically destroy, eradicate and dismantle the only planetary life-support machinery so far known to exist anywhere in the universe and to presume that it will nevertheless continue to function as it has always done in the past. Notice that the above has nothing to do with "running out" of food or resources or anything else but instead suggests the wisdom of serious caution when it comes to the extent of sheer physical damage that we are inflicting today on earth's biological machinery and life-support systems.
It is at least interesting and perhaps worth noting that the original human population of Easter Island underwent collapse following an estimated peak population of ~15,000. In that case, as the calculations outlined in appendix four of Wecskaop III show, the collapse of that population, its environment, and its society occurred even as the combined bodies of the entire human population physically occupied less than 3/1000ths of one percent of the "open-space" that remained theoretically available to them – an interesting number that is in provocative agreement with the 2/1000ths of one percent that characterizes calamity in an outbreak of dinoflagellate red-tide. Consider also that just like Easter Island, earth itself is, after all, an island (in space), and while earth is, of course, many times larger in size than Easter Island, so is the size of our population. The similarity of our situation today and that of a peak population on Easter Island is not perfect, however. The humans on Easter Island, for example, constituted a pre-industrial society that could deforest their environment, kill all of its birds and most of its seabirds, and overexploit its resources. Unlike us, however, they could not generate billions of tons of CO2 and industrial wastes and plunder resources from all parts of the planet. In addition, they had no automobile exhausts, oxidized fossil fuels, nuclear wastes, chlorofluorocarbons, logging concessions, investment portfolios, and mechanized fishing fleets with which to lay waste to their surroundings.
Resources and Links
Environmental Education: One hundred core educational competencies http://www.scribd.com/doc/24864944/Population-Environment-One-Hundred-Core-Educational-Competencies Carrying Capacity and Limiting Factors in Population Systems http://www.scribd.com/doc/18200189/PDF-7-Carrying-Capacity-and-Limiting-Factors Conservation Planning - Why 10% Goals May Permit Collapse http://www.scribd.com/doc/18030175/Why-conserving-only-10-of-Earths-lifesupport-machinery-is-not-enough Ecological Services and Ecological Release http://www.scribd.com/doc/18664970/PDF-5-Ecological-Services-and-Ecological-Release Population: A Critique of Beyond Six Billion http://www.scribd.com/doc/18660522/Population-A-Critique-of-Beyond-Six-Billion Overshoot: Lag-times and Delayed Feedbacks in Population Systems http://www.scribd.com/doc/18660236/Overshoot-Lagtimes-and-delayed-feedbacks-in-population-systems Population: Thresholds, Tipping Points, and Unintended Consequences http://www.scribd.com/doc/18187074/Population-Thresholds-Tipping-Points-and-Unintended-Consequences Demographic Transition Theory - New Questions http://www.scribd.com/doc/19805610/Demographic-Transition-Theory-New-Questions
Courtesy of The Wecskaop Project
What Every Citizen Should Know About Our Planet
SOURCES AND CITED REFERENCES
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