04 October 2009

A Living Earth of Incredible Resilience

Life on Earth is so incredibly resilient, that even the dinosaur-killing asteroid impact 65 million years ago couldn't suppress the vast life of the oceans for long. New research suggests that it took less than a century for the teeming "primary producers" of oceanic algae and cyanobacteria to replenish themselves following the Chicxulub impact off the Yucatan Peninsula.
Immediately after the impact, certain areas of the ocean were devoid of oxygen and hostile to most algae, but close to the continent, microbial life was inhibited for only a relatively short period: in probably less than 100 years, algal productivity showed the first signs of recovery. In the open ocean, however, this recovery took much longer: previous studies have estimated that the global ocean ecosystem did not return to its former state until 1 to 3 million years following the impact.

Because of the rebound of primary producers, Sepúlveda says "very soon after the impact, the food supply was not likely a limitation" for other organisms, and yet "the whole ecology of the system remained disrupted" and took much longer to recover.

The findings provide observational evidence supporting models suggesting that global darkness after the impact was rather short. "Primary productivity came back quickly, at least in the environment we were studying," says Summons, referring to the near-shore environment represented by the Danish sediments.

"The atmosphere must have cleared up rapidly," he says. "People will have to rethink the recovery of the ecosystems. It can't be just the lack of food supply" that made it take so long to recover. __MIT
The devastation of such a cosmic collision would be far worse than virtually any nuclear war scenario currently conceivable, yet even after such a cataclysm life bounced back quickly. Needless to say, this remarkably resilient comeback contradicts much current "environmentalist" thought -- in academia, political culture, and popular culture.

When political activists moan about the environmental effects of a 0.6 degree C rise in global temperature over a century, knowledgable observors are forced to suppress wry smiles at the ecological ignorance unwittingly revealed.

Earth life has not survived this long through unimaginable disasters and catastrophes, by being unable to deal with variation in climate and physical conditions. Certainly the impact of humans upon the Earth to this point has been extremely benign in comparison to the natural extreme variability that life has suffered under -- and still thrives.

And just think -- if algae can survive Chicxulub, it can survive just about anything. Maybe algae can even help us learn to survive Peak Oil Doom?

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Blogger Loren said...

Have you seen the article on the theory that it wasn't a "winter" that killed stuff off? Idea is, such a massive impact throws so much stuff of significant size into the upper atmosphere, that you pretty much get a global meteor storm that heats the surface, baking just about everything not covered. It wouldn't surprise me, if that was the case, that the oceans would recover quickly.

Sunday, 04 October, 2009  
Blogger al fin said...

It doesn't sound like much fun, however it played out.

BTW, have you seen the 5 min. clip for the film 2012 with John Cusack? Very wild special effects.

Sunday, 04 October, 2009  

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