Inverted Pyramids and Green Goo .
18 Nov 2011
Forget Grey Goo .
Green Goo is a much bigger danger .
Land-based biomass :
This follows the intuitively understood (by humans) pyramid : lots of plants at the bottom , then fewer herbivores (about 10% in terms of energy or biomass) , then carnivores (another 10% of herbivores) .
Marine biomass :
The base of the pyramid (ie the phytoplankton) is smaller than the subsequent predators existing on it at a slice in time . Both in biomass and energy .
What gives ?
The phytoplankton are essentially in an uncontrolled feedback loop , barely kept in check by zooplankton and resource constraints .
None of this telomere nonsense for phytoplankton .
This is inherently unstable . The inverted pyramid structure indicates this .
No static stability is possible , either . The best is a dynamic instability between thresholds .
The Inverted Pyramid has to jiggle around constantly to prevent Green Goo .
Green Goo :
1.If the bottom threshold fails , we simply have a lifeless piece of ocean , which is quickly repopulated .
2.If the top threshold fails , the phytoplankton multiply without limit . Oceans of Green Goo result .
This has happened repeatedly . Hence our present lakes of oil and gas .
Do the macro-calculations : without runaway Green Goo ecosystems (especially in shallow seas like Tethys) , there simply would not be enough biomass to yield the present large-scale oil and gas deposits .
Determining the thresholds :
This has proven to be extraordinarily difficult .
This is because there is no one answer . It is a dynamic system . With the driving system a positive feedback system .
Ocean layer mixing is a major factor .
See http://andreswhy.blogspot.com “Why whales are so large” Oct 2011 See Appendix C below .
And various models of nutrient mixing .
Some danger signs :
Large “dead” areas in the oceans . Lots of Cyanobacteria multiplying like mad , making oxygen .
Oxygen levels rising , (or remaining steady while they should be falling) . Explosions of jellyfish .
These are precursors to Green Goo .
Why are land-based-plants then in a stable pyramid ?
The invention of telomeres . Seaweeds .
Tidal areas have limited attachment areas . There is an evolutionary advantage in having an accelerated death-rate to make room for fitter young ones . Ditto for the center of old ocean gyres like the Sargasso Sea .
Biological diversity :
Forget the Amazon . Look to the Sargasso and equivalents .
Look at the nodules on the weeds . (Think mitochondria .)
The seaweeds tamed the positive feedback system .
Their descendants populated the land .
This has obvious applications to things like cancer , etc .
And here I thought all those seaweed facial packs were a bunch of rubbish .
Interestingly , feedback of the control structure into phytoplankton will result in a failure of the lower threshold , a patch of “dead” sea , and recolonization .
Global warming :
What global warming ?
From Gaia's viewpoint , humans are just restoring some of her cozy CO2 blanket .
Humans are supposed to be the conscious component of Gaia , but she can function perfectly well without them .
Humans pride themselves on their adaptability .
Like any proud mother , Gaia is trotting them onto the stage to strut their stuff .
Remember , she trained Kali .
Well , that's show business .
Marine environments can have inverted biomass pyramids. In particular, the biomass of consumers (copepods, krill, shrimp, forage fish) is larger than the biomass of primary producers. This happens because the ocean primary producers are tiny phytoplankton which grow and reproduce rapidly, so a small mass can have a fast rate of primary production. In contrast, terrestrial primary producers are plants which grow and reproduce slowly.
Humans comprise about 100 million tonnes of the Earth's dry biomass, domesticated animals about 700 million tonnes, and crops about 2 billion tonnes. The most successful animalspecies, in terms of biomass, may well be Antarctic krill, Euphausia superba, with a fresh biomass approaching 500 million tonnes., although domestic cattle may also reach these immense figures. However, as a group, the small aquatic crustaceans called copepods may form the largest animal biomass on earth. A 2009 paper in Science estimates, for the first time, the total world fish biomass as somewhere between 0.8 and 2.0 billion tonnes.
The new theory that Behrenfeld has developed, called the "dilution-recoupling hypothesis," suggests that the spring bloom depends on processes occurring earlier in the fall and winter. As winter storms become more frequent and intense, the biologically-rich surface layer mixes with cold, almost clear and lifeless water from deeper levels. This dilutes the concentration of phytoplankton and zooplankton, making it more difficult for the zooplankton to find the phytoplankton and eat them -- so more phytoplankton survive and populations begin to increase during the dark, cold days of winter.
In the spring, storms subside and the phytoplankton and zooplankton are no longer regularly diluted. Zooplankton find their prey more easily as the concentration of phytoplankton rises. So even though the phytoplankton get more light and their growth rate increases, the voracious feeding of the zooplankton keeps them largely in-check, and the overall rise in phytoplankton occurs at roughly the same rate from winter to late spring. Eventually in mid-summer, the phytoplankton run out of nutrients and the now abundant zooplankton easily overtake them, and the bloom ends with a rapid crash.
"What the satellite data appear to be telling us is that the physical mixing of water has as much or more to do with the success of the bloom as does the rate of phytoplankton photosynthesis," Behrenfeld said. "Big blooms appear to require deeper wintertime mixing."
Why Whales are so large
12 Aug 2011
Vertical migration in the ocean between each breath recycles nutrients into the sunlit layers of the ocean , stimulating phytoplankton-krill-whale positive feedback cycle . The bigger the whale , the more krill , the more whales , etc
See "Givers of Life" by Steve Nicol in NewScientist 9 Jul 2011 p36 .
This is an excellent overview by an actual researcher .
Critical points :
1.Nutrients tend to sink after concentration into plant cells . Small animal faeces like krill sink by 100 – 1000 metres a day . The thermocline acts as a trapdoor , excacerbating the effect in summer or global warmaing .
2.Mammals have to breathe at the surface . This forces a vertical migration with each breath , mixing things up in at least three ways :
2.1 Wake turbulence and Coanda Effect (Google it) . Large volumes of water are transported up and down . It is part of whale's reduction to water-flow resistance . The bigger the whale , the better .
2.2 Nutrient scavenging from the depths and faeces plumes at surface . Size helps .
2.3 Floating reservoirs of nutrients in krill are eaten and excreted as faeces plumes in the sunlit zones , preventing loss of vital nutrients like iron . This stimulates phytoplankton , which stimulates krill , which stimulates whales . The bigger the whales , and the more of them , the better .
Social effect and mini-ecology :
A pod of whales use their sonar calls to coordinate their vertical migrations to create a nutrient rich mini-ecology around the pod . They farm the sea .
Other species benefit . Fishing is good .
Note that the minimum survival size is a pod , and the techniques are learned .
Think of the pod as a farming village in 3-dimensional oceanic terms .
A lonely whale is a hungry whale
The feedback effect here would be as the cube of the number of whales and their size . A very strong effect , leading quickly to large numbers and maximum possible sizes .
This was indeed the case as late as 17th century Whale , fish and wild bird populations were about 100 times larger than at present . Google it .
The Fly-by effect :
Whale pod ecologies moving past a coast would have significant effects on local crustaceans and inshore fishing .
The same is applicable for coral reefs . Blanching is be ameliorated by temperature-layer mixing .
The Australian Great Barrier reef can be saved through whale pods doing a fly-by
Coral atolls the same .
Without them there would be a desert .
Whales seems to have been the key-stone eco species .
The Bad News :
This seems bad , since humans reduced whale numbers so drastically .
The Good News :
1.The feedback effect is very strong (cubed effect) and can be applied per pod .
2.Pod-package : similar to human civilization package .
Symbiotic and commensal species of fish , phytoplankton , krill , dolphins , orcas , can be used to accelerate repopulation , under strict human protection .
3.Commercial Demand :
Whale Pods and their symbiotic humans can negotiate their own terms for ecological beneficiation for coral islands , fisheries , barrier reefs , etc .
In a warming world , the Whale Union will be a powerful force .
Whales and Dinosaurs :
Whales are the largest animals that ever lived .
Sea dinosaurs did not need to breathe air . Hence no vertical migration .
Hence no feedback effect for size .
Hippo's are a branch of whales (from long ago) . They also create a mini-ecology in their pool by stirring things up . Especially in the dry season . The pools are stagnant . The only thing stirring up nutrients are hippo's . The other species depend on them . The eco-system collapses without them .
Which is why humans put up with bad-tempered hippo's in Africa . They were essential to a functioning ecosystem .
(Or , to put it more elegantly , the tribe that killed them perished .)
Which makes me wonder why they were not domesticated .
Maybe an attempt was made around the Makgadigadi Sea , and what we have are the descendants of the untamable ones . Similar to buffalo and kwagga .
See http://andreswhy.blogspot.com "Makgadigadi Sea" Aug 2009
The Human-Whale interaction .
There is fairly good evidence that a crucial human bottle-neck experience took place about 190 000 to 200 000 years ago on the Agulhas plains during an ice-age .The only thing enabling them to survive was the annual whale pods flying by , fertilizing the Agulhas Banks .
This survives to this day . The locals are fanatical in protecting the whales . No large scale whaling has ever taken place . They have long forgotten the reasons for it , but like any good religious proscription , it persists .
Whale watching is a major industry today .
Local South Africans and others gather to watch the phallic plumes of whale-breath spume new life into the banks .
Every time the whale pods go by , the poor over-fished abalone , crayfish and other fisheries are invigorated and struggle on .
Having a whale of a time .