I have posted this graph many times before. Today I just wish to take another look at it and explain what it is you’re looking at. There is a huge problem with the decline in wild animals that I wish to explain.
Consider for example, the decline in the Bonobo. The lesser known sibling of the common chimpanzee, the Bonobo is a gentle ape that tends to avoid violence and prefers a diet of fruit. Some sources say there are between 30,000 and 50,000 living south of the Congo river, others say there are less than 20,000 left.
Unfortunately, the population of humans in Congo is increasing rapidly, putting the future of Bonobo at risk. The Bonobo may very well end up extinct in the wild. What happens when the Bonobo dies out? The Bonobo is the main seed dispersing animal for most of the trees in the Congolese rainforest.
They eat seeds, these seeds spend about 24 hours passing through their intestinal tract and then end up many kilometers away from the place where the bonobo ate the fruit. It’s thought that 65% of all tree species in the Bonobo’s rainforest habitat depend on the Bonobo for dispersal, with every individual Bonobo spreading 11.6 million individual seeds in his lifetime on average. Some seeds specifically depend on the Bonobo’s intestinal tract, to begin germination. There are no other animals in the Congolese rainforest that can replace their role. So what happens, is that without the Bonobo the rainforest itself will just die.
Now consider what is happening to the population of humans in Congo. In 1950, there were 13 million humans in Congo. In 2020 there are 90 million humans in Congo. By 2050 there will be 145 million. By 2100 there will be 431 million according to current UN projections.
So when LSWM gurus like Elon Musk and Alex Jones whine about elites wanting to reduce the population and being anti-human and women needing to pop out more children, I would ask you: What is supposed to happen to the Bonobo? What is supposed to happen to the forest these apes inhabit? Anyone with an IQ above room temperature wants to reduce the human population.
In reality, the only chance the Bonobo has for survival is if some sort of plague were to strike Congo. And there’s not a lot of time left, it needs to happen fast. There is no method of feeding 431 million people in Congo that does not involve destruction of the Bonobo’s habitat. All those hungry people will simply hunt the Bonobos as meat and destroy their habitat.
There is no substitute for biodiversity and you can’t just fix it after you’ve lost it. Consider this image that’s shared a lot, as a supposed example of American environmental stewardship:
The forest coverage bottoms out around 1900, before recovering. Great, but what happened to the forests? Old growth forests with a lot of different species were chopped down. These were replaced by just a small number of species, with limited genetic diversity. Oftentimes people went for species that grow rapidly, like Ash trees.
It has been found that there is a kind of “herd immunity for trees“. A handful of American Ash trees are naturally resistant to the Emerald Ash Borer killing Ash trees. But if you cover a number of the trees in insecticides, you also protect surrounding trees. In other words, with a high enough naturally resistant share of Ash trees, you wouldn’t be suffering the massive forest diebacks you’re witnessing right now. The reason forests in Europe and North America are being decimated by these insects and fungal pathogens, is because the genetic diversity of these forests is very low. Of course when too many of your trees die at once, you get other problems too. The abundance of dead trees now fuels forest fires.
Within ecosystems there are keystone species that are central in the web of life and there are more peripheral species. You could compare this to how a building will have walls that carry the rest of the structure and walls that have no such role to play. If Lemurpediculus robbinsi, the parasitic louse that infects Crossley’s dwarf lemur went extinct, the world would probably continue to revolve around the sun.
But other species are far more vital and we don’t always know exactly why. Consider migratory waterfowl. These birds have a very important and unintuitive role in the ecosystem. Birds are vulnerable to influenza viruses, that can also jump into mammals. These viruses can become highly lethal. But highly lethal viruses will struggle to spread themselves around the world, because the migratory waterfowl that spread influenza need to be able to make long journeys that tax their bodies.
By spreading influenza during their journeys around the world, the migratory waterfowl keep the virulence of influenza strains low. Our massive factory farms for chickens and other birds have the exact opposite effect: They encourage influenza viruses to become steadily more virulent. One has to wonder what the effect will be of our ability to spread SARS2 variants across the whole globe within hours, thanks to modern air travel.
For other species their importance is even less obvious. Why do we need woodpeckers? Because the holes they can drill into trees with their special adaptations are used as nests by other species. Not just birds use these holes, but bats use them too. The bats in turn of course prey on insects at night.
Beavers are perhaps the best studied example of a keystone species. Beavers build dams, that change the whole ecosystem. Fish have a place to spawn their eggs. Many other animals will use a beaver dam as a bridge, to get from one location to the other, as can be seen in the video above. The dams can also help combat erosion and filter nutrients from the water.
And in many situations, overall biodiversity matters too. Consider the example of malaria. Malaria is a parasite that has historically helped keep human population levels low. Malaria can not spread itself, when there are too many non-human animals for every human in an ecosystem. The reason for this is because the parasite can only replicate in primates, but the mosquito will readily bite any warm-blooded animal, so with enough non-human animals, the parasites end up in dead-end hosts too often for them to sustain themselves.
When biodiversity becomes low, the species that make up most of the population in an ecosystem become very vulnerable to pathogens. Our human susceptibility to malaria is a good example. The surviving non-human species suffer the same problem however. The more their diversity declines, the more vulnerable they become to pathogens.
For human food production this is also an issue. We know for example that we have a problem with stem rust, a fungal pathogen affecting our staple crops. So what we need, are genetic reservoirs, where the undomesticated versions of our crops survive, like wild maize.
Unfortunately, we contaminated those with transgenes, from our genetically modified crops. In Mexico, the wild maize has inherited the Bt gene that makes our genetically manipulated maize resistant to insects. So what happens to the wild maize in Mexico? The biodiversity is lost, as the handful of wild maize plants that inherited the Bt genes from cross-pollination with the genetically manipulated plants have a massive reproductive advantage over the other wild maize plants.
Ultimately, the biggest problem life on Earth faces is the biodiversity crisis. We are in the middle of the sixth mass extinction. Forty percent of all land on Earth is used to produce food. Most of that land is used directly or indirectly for meat production. A cow converts only 2% of the protein ingested into edible protein for humans.
There is now a huge abundance of humans, cows, pigs and chickens. All of the worlds chickens weigh three times as much as all of the world’s wild birds. The wild waterfowl do what they have done for generations, they spread mild versions of influenza around the world. But how are they supposed to compete, with the chicken farms where humans keep breeding highly lethal hot forms of influenza, because the virus doesn’t have to keep the chickens alive to spread from one chicken to the next?
Humans could simply collectively choose to stop this madness. There is no biological need for humans to eat chickens, cows or pigs. But you can look around you, how little desire humans really have to solve the problems they have created. The inevitable outcome is that the whole web of life will become vulnerable to the new viruses that are emerging. As we are unwilling to correct the ecological imbalance we have created ourselves, nature will have to do it for us.