Sixth Extinction Reflection 3
In order to understand the consequences of global warming the author traveled to a series of plots in the amazon. These plots are arranged on a slope so that each plot is a few thousand feet higher than the one before. The purpose of these plots is to determine the speed at which the native plants could “migrate” upslope, as the temperature rose. To do this, the types and quantities of each tree were recorded each year. Considering that each plot is several acres, this seems like a very laborious and boring task. Two years ago, for a science experiment we were required to count the number and types of plants in a thousand square feet. This took several hours, a lot of recounting, and a lot of back pain (from leaning over). The researchers did this each year on several thousand acres located in the middle of the amazon. And I thought I had it rough. Just imagining the hot humid climate and the thousands of insect makes me sick. I can’t imagine investing so much time and money into an experiment which could easily be ruined by a storm or forest fire.
Later, the author speaks of invasive species. She talks about the zebra mussels in the great lakes, the brown tree snakes in Guam, the cane toads in Australia, and the European starlings across North America. It’s obvious from the list above that this is a worldwide problem. She tells the reader to look out the nearest window and research the species they see, knowing that most of them would be invasive. I happened to be camping on the beach of a remote little island, and having looked out the window saw nothing but the grass that grows on the dunes. This grass, as it turns out, is Ammophila breviligulata which is native to North Carolina. As I am writing this (now at home), I can look out the window and see dozens of invasive species and only a handful of native ones. One invasive species the author mentions in detail is a white fungus responsible for destroying bat populations throughout the United States. This fungus was first discovered when bat watchers noticed a white powdery substance on a few bats in a cave in New York. A few weeks later, the cave floor was covered with bat carcasses. The fungus then spread across the US and Canada in a matter of years, wiping out some six million bats. I realize bats aren’t the cutest of animals, but you can’t help but feel terrible for the little creatures as they are one by one killed off by a fungus we humans brought over from Europe. This story actually broke my heart especially after the author described a lone bat nuzzling through piles of bat carcasses looking for another survivor.