“High frequency of functional extinctions in ecological networks” – translated

Corking article in Nature, Vol 498, No 7455

High frequency of functional extinctions in ecological networks

Torbjorn Saterberg, Stefan Sellman and Bo Ebenman.

Intensified exploitation of natural populations and habitats has led to increased mortality rates and decreased abundances of many species. [We are trashing everything, forever, to keep the shopping malls full for the next week.  Just-in-Time Extinction.]

There is a growing concern that this might cause critical abundance thresholds of species to be crossed, with extinction cascades and state shifts in ecosystems as a consequence [Slowly reality is impinging on the dull-witted bald macaques]

When increased mortality rate and decreased abundance of a given species lead to extinction of other species, this species can be characterized as functionally extinct even though it still exists. [You can be a “dead species walking” – there’s still a few of you around, but not in the concentrations that would matter. Sort of like smart leftists willing and able to innovate.]

Although such functional extinctions have been observed in some ecosystems, their frequency is largely unknown. [Capitalist science is only interest in squeezing the pips. The research bucks go to (en)forcing productionism.  Mind you, Communist science wasn’t exactly a barrel of laughs either.]

Here we use a new modelling approach to explore the frequency and pattern of functional extinctions in ecological networks. Specifically, we analytically derive critical abundance thresholds of species by increasing their mortality rates until an extinction occurs in the network. [Fun with computers!]

Applying this approach on natural and theoretical food webs, we show that the species most likely to go extinct first is not the one whose mortality rate is increased but instead another species.  [Collateral damage! ] Indeed, up to 80% of all first extinctions are of another species, suggesting that a species’ ecological functionality is often lost before its own existence is threatened. [Stop fawning over the charismatic mega-fauna already…]

Furthermore, we find that large-bodied species at the top of the food chains can only be exposed to small increases in mortality rate and small decreases in abundance before going functionally extinct compared to small-bodied species lower in the food chains. [Big is, often, vulnerable. But don’t panic. We are God’s creatures, and we will be just fine.]

These results illustrate the potential importance of functional extinction in ecological networks and lend strong support to arguments advocating a more community-oriented approach in conservation biology, with target levels for populations based on ecological functionality rather than on mere persistence. [Saving this or that species is futile. See the big picture, if you dare.]

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