Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Nature’s Amazing Stability

Natural phenomena never stop to amaze me. A recent article in “Nature” reports that penguins changed their diet to krill in response to the steep decline in the whale and seal populations. The latter are krill predators, and the decline of their populations results in krill population “booming”. In order to keep the krill population stable, the penguins “made” krill their diet. Amazing!!

A happy (?) penguin family

Nature itself was designed to have high stability. The penguin–whale–krill relationship is just one of many examples of the stability mechanism in nature. The water cycle, plant photosynthesis, and even the work of our body (e.g. homeostasis) are all examples of stability mechanisms in nature. The complexity between components in nature (which still hold many unraveled mysteries) creates an amazingly sustainable system. Although we humans have done hundreds of years of research, we haven’t even touched the tip of fully understanding nature. There seems to always be something “new”, which shows us how “unknowledgeable” we really are.

Even law-protected forests are chopped down (Tanjung puting national park, picture courtesy of Greenpeace)

However, despite being highly durable, nature still faces serious contest with one of its own dominant components, humans. They drill the earth to look for buried goods, cut down trees (who have sustained us almost forever) to create toothpicks, blow out emission and gas from their BMWs, and do everything else you can think of to disturb natures stability. The penguin–whale–krill saga is also the result of human hands, with their whaling and sealing (which resulted in the decline of the whale/seal population). The saga has not yet ended though. Now, extensive krill exploitation is also predicted to have an impact on the penguin population.

Humans, the only real cause of nature's instability?

If we keep our attitude (to destroy things), what might be in store for us in the future? Disaster after disaster has begun, starting from mere landslides to the ultimate potential catastrophe of global warming. Nature itself, will always find a way to survive and reincarnate. However, components in it are dynamic and will always change. As demonstrated in species extinction (dinosaurs are one of the most famous).

Anyway, the next time nature faces an extreme condition that tests its stability, I wonder how it will comply. If a species is to be extinct, I wonder what will go? A plant species, an animal species, or …. us?