[Coral-List] Bamboo

David M. Lawrence dave at fuzzo.com
Fri Aug 28 19:56:18 EDT 2009

I would like to remind the learned gentleman from Florida to be careful 
when cherrypicking historical trends to make a point.

Consider this, when was the last time he or anyone else roasted American 
chestnuts on an open fire?  I suspect no one has, for the chestnuts we 
now consume are either imported themselves or are harvested from 
imported chestnut species.

The American chestnut was one of the dominant species in eastern North 
American forests -- if not the dominant species over much of eastern 
North America.  Within two decades of chestnuts being memorialized in 
"The Christmas Song,"  they had been all-but-wiped out by the chestnut 
blight, a diseased accidentally introduced from Asian chestnuts.  The 
fungus was introduced about 1900.  By the 1960s it had completely 
transformed the American forest landscape.

I would not dismiss it as a "natural" cycle.

While the species still survives as root sprouts, most sprouts succumb 
to the blight before they reach an age or size class capable of sexual 
reproduction -- which rather dims the odds that the species will evolve 
resistance to the disease.

Sure, there is still extensive forest cover in eastern North America 
(where the forest is not taken over by kudzu, converted to subdivision 
or strip mall, or sheared off the tops of mountains for coal 
production).  But the forests that remain are quite different from what 
they were before the blight.  They are arguably not as productive 
economically -- the American chestnut was a very important timber 
species.  Nor are they as productive ecologically -- they were arguably 
the most productive mast (nut) producer; None of the species that 
replaced them are capable of yielding as much as the American chestnut did.

If such human-driven catastrophes happened in terrestrial ecosystems, 
they most certainly can happen -- and historical data shows that they 
have happened -- in marine ecosystems, too.

Evidence for individual catastrophes may not be readily visible when 
averaging a series of events over thousands or millions of years, but 
because we cannot resolve them in the geological evidence available 
doesn't mean they were not or are not devastating to organisms that 
complete their life cycles over much shorter time frames -- which would 
be just about every organism that has ever lived, including us.


P.S. The fact that most of us don't have a clue what Mel Tormé and Bob 
Wells were talking about it "The Christmas Song" is a classic example of 
what Callum Roberts refers to as a "shifting baseline."

Eugene Shinn wrote:
> Bamboo, Another hot button! Has anyone considered how many plants we 
> take for granted are actually exotics? What are considered  exotics 
> are often  those plants that got here before we were born. I love my 
> Key Limes (an exotic Dr. Perine imported from Mexico). And what would 
> south Florida be  with out coconut trees? Since the subject of bamboo 
> came up I suggest that coral listers investigate Bamboo as I did a 
> few years ago. You can find it all on the inter-net. First thing I 
> learned was that there is one worldwide species that dies off at the 
> same time every 125 years. The Pandas in China suffer because it is 
> their principal diet. The Chinese have observed it for a few thousand 
> years. Another species dies off about every 75 years. At the same 
> time it is dying in the far east it is dying everywhere in the Amazon 
> basin! How can that be? Its part of their flowering cycle. Another 
> species,  recently covered on a NOVA series TV program, flowers every 
> 40 years. When it flowers it produces nut like fruit that feed wild 
> rats. The rats breed so fast that they devour rice crops in parts of 
> northern India leading to famine.  It all a natural cycle!  Lets see 
> now..The Acroporas began dying all over the Caribbean in the late 
> 1970s  peaking in 1983 and 1984. umm. Gene

  David M. Lawrence        | Home:  (804) 559-9786
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