For those who doubt the systemic nature of ecology and food webs:
Botulism, for example, is killing tens of thousands of birds around the Great Lakes. Studies indicate that two invasive species triggered the outbreak. The quagga mussel, introduced from Ukraine, filters the water for food, making it clearer. The sunlight that penetrates the lakes allows algae to bloom, and dead algae trigger an explosion of oxygen-consuming bacteria. As the oxygen level drops, the botulism-causing bacteria can multiply. The quagga mussels take up the bacteria, and they in turn are eaten by another invasive species: a fish known as the round goby. When birds eat round gobies, they become infected and die.**
I compose this while listening to a podcast of Terry Gross talking to Thomas Friedman, who always approaches his analyses knowing that he is looking at a complex interconnected system. Right now he’s railing about McCain and others advocating for drilling, which means continued reliance on oil, and continuation of this hazardous relationship with oil-producing countries (often not our geopolitical friends, like Russia, Venezuela, much of the Middle East), rather than opting for solar and wind energy, which would be more economically secure….
Sorry for not continuing this rant, but I need to go back to considering complex sociopolitical systems that functioned in the recent past, when nation-states formed at various places around the globe….
* OR: Don’t eat the round gobies.
** From Carl Zimmer’s article “Friendly Invaders” in yesterday’s NYTimes.