One Cubic Foot
How humans’ choice to grow just one crop can affect nature’s balance.
A typical terrestrial ecosystem is a living mosaic of hundreds or even thousands of species, balanced on one another’s existence like a biological house of cards. From plants and bugs down to microscopic fungi and bacteria, there’s a world of life in just a cubic meter.
That’s what David Liitschwager’s new book One Cubic Foot set out to capture. Anything that came through a plastic cube one foot on each side was photographed and catalogued. It’s stunning just how much life there is right under our feet, or above our heads, at any moment. Move the cube just a few feet away? You may see a completely different slice of the biodiversity pie.
However, there are tales of caution within those pages. See those two photos at top? The top photo shows the biodiversity present in a typical slice of shrub land. Cooperative populations of over 100 plants and insects. The bottom? It’s from an Iowa cornfield, home to less than an actual handful.
That cornfield is the victim of the modern agricultural practice of monoculture.
Where there were once hundreds of species, living together on the richest soil in the midwest, there remain a sparse few. In manipulating nature to grow only one crop on a piece of land, we have created an almost alien world. It’s beyond a debate between organic vs. conventional (neither of which are perfect). It’s a question of simple biology, and I don’t like the answer.
Be sure to read Robert Krulwich’s review of One Cubic Foot. And then check out Michael Pollan talking about the danger of monocultures to nature and our diets.
As many as 100 species go extinct every day. How many have we even failed to identify? How many could we prevent?
How many are we responsible for?
Joel Sartore is a National Geographic photographer, and his new book RARE puts a face on the anonymously endangered. And this is just in North America. You can get copies here, and also see more photos.
Sometimes you have to stare a problem with in its cute/scary/nonexistent face in order to take action.
(via Joel Sartore)
As we rocket past 7 billion people on Earth and race toward an ever-more-crowded home, many other species are being kicked in the opposite direction.
Biodiversity is about more than saving species for the sake of nobility or honor. It is about preserving the balance of ecosystems that have taken millions of years to evolve, dependent on each of their innumerable living and non-living parts.
Joel Sartore believes that by cataloguing species in danger, we can be reminded that time is running out for many of them. If we are forced to look at them (and in stunning beauty), then we will be forced to see.
A beautiful project, for biology and for our appreciation of life. Check out his ongoing collection, 1,800 and counting. Awesome.
(via Joel Sartore)
If temperatures continue to rise to the ranges predicted by the IPCC reports, habitat change will be occurring at a much faster pace than species can adapt to it. This means that they will have only a few options:
- Get lucky and somehow deal with it.
- Move to a nearby, more reasonable habitat (e.g. higher altitude)
- Go extinct
A new study out of Germany says that as many as 80% of genetic variation could disappear as a result of the anticipated temperature changes. All the white branches that you see in the tree of life above are species who have no viable adaptive mechanism or no nearby habitat … and could therefore disappear.
It’s more than polar bears, folks. This is on us.