Thursday, January 17, 2008

In defence of the Apex Predator

A recent theme in ecological research has been the discovery that not all species are as important as eachother in a regional ecosystem. In fact, if one has to choose a species to protect, it is always the apex predator (top of the food chain) that should be chosen. For instance the extermination in the 1920's of the Wolf from Yellowstone National Park had been found to cause damage to the whole ecology without a single other animal or plant being damaged by human hands. This has been found to be true for all regional ecosystems. Thus the Crocodile really is due protection in the rivers, The Lion really is the king of the beasts in parts of Africa, Cougars, Bears etc. are very important in their ecological niches as well. In Yellowstone for instance, the elk (Reindeer?) are perceived by humans to be important because they are big and beautiful, but the Wolf is more important even though it is unpopular both with tourist and ranchers, and often kill weaker, though intelligent animals in very cruel ways.

Also in the Ocean this is found to be true. And the vicious killers of the deep blue are denegrated by a large swathe of the population. This is wrong, because even if they are natural born killers and kill intelligent and feeling popular mammals of the deep, they are more important than the species they are killing for food. Thus I believe the apex predator in this case - the Japanese whaling and fishing fleets - should be regulated to more mimic the activities of more conventional apex predators such as Great Whites and killer whales, and not be vilified for choosing to kill whales in certain circumstances. Whales are like giant Elk of the deep, and uncontrolled populations may devastate populations of lower species - especially if shark hunting continues uncontrolled!

3 comments:

Dr. Clam said...

So I guess this puts paid to all those 'the Earth would be better off without humans' arguments. What else can we be but the ultimate Apex Predator?

I heard a radio report this morning- doom and gloom pontificating about the future of global food supplies- but the 'V' word was never mentioned. Typical.
Carnivory is thermodynamically ridiculous. We should give it away. Except, I guess, for those gross blubbery aquatic mammals who will use their psionic powers to kill us off if we don't get them first (hmm, I was thinking that was from a David Brin story but I suspect it is from an anthology of Oz sci-fi I have- will check). Long live the Apex Predator! Down with the whales!

Marco said...

Carnivory is a necessary evil (in an ecological sense) without which a reasonable balance could not be maintained. Even as humans using animal husbandry, a stock of animal stock would get us through a reasonable period of dearth as we convert to vegetarianism.

Dr. Clam said...

Huh? How would converting to vegetarianism entail any period of 'dearth'?

And you necessary evil is only temporary. We will able to construct new and better ecologies, sans carnivory, in the reasonably near future.