Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Hershey Highway - It's Real !!

And what's more, despite gravity it sometimes runs uphill.

When you sat down with your morning coffee today you probably didn't spare a thought for how much your very existence depends on poop or the perils of existing in a poop deficient ecosystem.

The Hershey Highway - it begins at the bottom of the ocean and follows a meandering path that brings it ashore and then up almost to the peak of our mountains and far inland. That's right, uphill. Here's what that looks like:

Whales hunt along the sea bed. They surface and poop. Whale poop gets eaten by surface algae that feed plankton that feed what we consider bait fish that are eaten by marine mammals and sea birds that bring all that nutrition ashore where it fertilizes the soil, growing delicious plants for herbivores. Meanwhile eagles, bears and such gorge on spawning fish as they head upstream. The herbivores and carnivores carry their phosphorous rich blessings uphill, doing their bit for growing our meadows and forests. It's the gift that keeps on giving. Stop snickering, I mean it!

A report from the US National Academy of Sciences entitled "Global Nutrient Transport in a World of Giants" explores the damage we're causing by wiping out the world's truly great poopers. Let's put it this way, it's not a pretty picture.

The capacity to move nutrients away from hotspots decreased to 6% of past values across land and ocean. The vertical movement of phosphorus (P) by marine mammals was reduced by 77% and movement of P from sea to land by seabirds and anadromous fish was reduced by 96%, effectively disrupting an efficient nutrient distribution pump that once existed from the deep sea to the continental interiors.

The paper explores how little time we have to restart the "nutrient distribution pump" and we do need to get our minds around this. One suggestion is to restore the traditional bison herds and every other link in the nutrient pathway beginning with our whale populations. Time's a wastin'.


WILLY said...

"So long and thanks for the fish"

Toby said...

We humans have this nasty habit of expanding our populations to consume every bit of available food. This world can't handle seven billion of us. Quite aside from global warming and other major problems we are eating ourselves into a very big problem.