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-   -   Charles Darwin's ecological experiment (http://forums.macnn.com/89/macnn-lounge/497233/charles-darwins-ecological-experiment/)

 
mattyb Jan 16, 2013 07:44 AM
Charles Darwin's ecological experiment
BBC News - Charles Darwin's ecological experiment on Ascension isle

Amazing.

I wonder if land that is being 'desertified' could be reclaimed using the same methods.
 
Uncle Skeleton Jan 16, 2013 10:16 AM
Good read, until they got to the Mars chapter. My guess about desertification... sounds like a case of the ecological niche changing, the prior species is no longer fit but there are no invasive species taking their place. I imagine there were lots of transplants on Ascension that didn't make it, and only the survivors (read: most invasive) remain today. If we try the same thing in the desert, the winning species would in fact win, but we'd get (arguably justified) objections from environmentalists about the winning (read: most invasive) species displacing native ones even faster than desertification. Might still be worthwhile even so, I guess it all depends on how much we care about the native species in those climates.
 
ShortcutToMoncton Jan 16, 2013 10:20 AM
Possibly, but perhaps not as easily. Those instances are often partly because of climate (change), and partly because of habitat destruction - the point being, there's a reason the habitat was destroyed and it's possible that "putting it back" is not a good option.

At least on the surface it seems as though the climate was quite good here - the remoteness of the island meant that fertilization was the key problem.
 
Uncle Skeleton Jan 16, 2013 11:41 AM
Quote, Originally Posted by ShortcutToMoncton (Post 4212041)
Possibly, but perhaps not as easily. Those instances are often partly because of climate (change), and partly because of habitat destruction
Both of those are what I was referring to (changing niche; actually, I wasn't thinking of climate change at all, but it fits just fine). Other species may be (actually very probably) better adapted for the new niche already, and the only reason they're not there is because of the same reason they weren't on Ascension: distance.

Quote
the point being, there's a reason the habitat was destroyed and it's possible that "putting it back" is not a good option.
I don't follow. You mean the reason was a good one? What would be the downside of "putting it back?"
 
ShortcutToMoncton Jan 16, 2013 12:53 PM
Just to be clear, I was responding to the OP and your post hadn't appeared when I started.

The comment on "putting it back" in relation to desertification dovetails nicely with your own. Of course it depends on the reason for desertification - one of them is habitat destruction by humans, which often means we've replaced the habitat with something else ("put up a parking lot" etc. etc.), and thus from a practical perspective "putting it back" isn't possible. But since there was a reason the existing species did not fare well in that area, the answer could be introducing a different species that does better in the new ecological niche - but then it's likely an invasive species, or else it would already be there. And as well all know introducing invasive species is a pandora's box all of its own.
 
Uncle Skeleton Jan 16, 2013 02:51 PM
Quote, Originally Posted by ShortcutToMoncton (Post 4212063)
Just to be clear, I was responding to the OP and your post hadn't appeared when I started.
Oops :)

Quote
Of course it depends on the reason for desertification - one of them is habitat destruction by humans, which often means we've replaced the habitat with something else ("put up a parking lot" etc. etc.), and thus from a practical perspective "putting it back" isn't possible.
I thought some of it at least was due to subsistence farming and lack of crop rotation etc, leaving the land to waste and moving on to the next patch. In that case, reclamation by invasive species could help. Maybe invasiveness could be contained by transgenic kill switch?
 
ShortcutToMoncton Jan 16, 2013 03:02 PM
Wait, you want to introduce genetically modified invasive species?

Would love to see your marketing campaign for that one :D
 
Uncle Skeleton Jan 16, 2013 03:45 PM
Well, what I really want is for everything to be genetically modified some day. Starting with things that are actually beneficial is just a strategy to neutralize the stigma of the whole idea :P
 
mattyb Jan 16, 2013 05:09 PM
Quote, Originally Posted by ShortcutToMoncton (Post 4212085)
Wait, you want to introduce genetically modified invasive species?

Would love to see your marketing campaign for that one :D
Evolutionary Genetics (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

You trying to be funny?
 
ShortcutToMoncton Jan 17, 2013 08:55 AM
I certainly thought it was funny:

Uncle: "We'd like to reclaim this desertified land!"
Hippy Enviros: "Yaaaaay!"
Uncle: "We shall do it by introducing an invasive new species!
Hippy Enviros: "Errrrr...booooo!"
Uncle: "Oh don't worry - they've been genetically modified so it won't be a problem!"
Hippy Enviros: "......heart attack......."

Also, are you not aware of the difference between genetic modification and evolutionary genetics? :shake:
 
Uncle Skeleton Jan 17, 2013 10:13 AM
Genetic drift is just what we see after the intelligent designer comes back in to do "updates."
 
ShortcutToMoncton Jan 17, 2013 11:07 AM
Oh great - I suppose given the title this was inevitably headed to the Pol Lounge. Bye bye....:p
 
mattyb Jan 17, 2013 01:56 PM
Quote, Originally Posted by ShortcutToMoncton (Post 4212262)
Also, are you not aware of the difference between genetic modification and evolutionary genetics? :shake:
No, I'm not. I don't even know what the majority definitions of genetic modification or evolutionary genetics are. I didn't know if you were trying to be funny or something else. I'm not ashamed to admit that I sometimes post to the MacNN Lounge hoping that I'll learn something. This article was one of those.

It would be a pity to get moved to the Pol Lounge, even though I know bringing up Darwin can bring out the worst in some people.
 
Uncle Skeleton Jan 17, 2013 02:27 PM
"Genetically modified" means modified by people, on purpose, as opposed to the modifications that genes get without human meddling. That we know of ;)

Honestly I don't get the outrage over genetically modified foods (it's just foods they're worried about right?). It's usually just shuffling naturally occurring genes around from one organism to another. We're not building new genes from scratch, and even if we did what are people afraid they'll do that isn't found already in nature? Are they afraid we'll add the gay gene and make all the hot dogs gay? I mean that's absurd, hot dogs can't be gay because they're not even made from organic matter :P
 
mattyb Jan 17, 2013 04:29 PM
Quote, Originally Posted by Uncle Skeleton (Post 4212341)
"Genetically modified" means modified by people, on purpose, as opposed to the modifications that genes get without human meddling.
I had never even considered that some people defined genetically modified as only human modification.
 
ShortcutToMoncton Jan 17, 2013 05:16 PM
As opposed to what other type of modification - evolutionary? In which case, then everything would be genetically modified, no? And then what would be the point of the description?
 
mattyb Jan 17, 2013 06:18 PM
Now that I think about it, I guess everything living has to an extent been genetically modified. I don't know enough science regarding the small stuff like bacteria or pond scum though.

Evolutionary genetic modification and human induced genetic modification maybe?
 
ShortcutToMoncton Jan 17, 2013 06:40 PM
Yeah that makes sense from a technical standpoint, but practically speaking, it probaby makes more sense to consider evolutionary genetics an inherent part of every organism, and use the term "genetically modified" to mean by human means.
 
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