Share | | More

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Challenging our basic assumptions is healthy

If you ever realize that you are not as bright as you thought you were and you want to keep the world from finding out, the best things to do are:
  1. Keep quiet most of the time, unless you've really thought your stuff through
  2. Grow a beard, unless you are a lady in which case you will be forced to go into the carnival  business
  3. Pay attention on the rare occasions in which bright people give a glimpse into the mechanism of how they think, and try to copy to the best of your ability
I largely succeed on the first two. The third...not so much. 

Pictured: me (the taller one) keepin' quiet and havin' a beard,
but clearly not paying attention to precept #3.

One bit of insight that I've tried (and largely failed) to grasp was obtained from my grandfather, who once mentioned how he tried to think one 'unthinkable thought' every day. That is to say, once a day, he would identify something that he just accepted as being true, and he would try to challenge it in his own mind to see if it was indeed true (this was my interpretation, at least).

While I haven't done a great job of incorporating that advice into my personal life, I find it remarkably easy to trawl through the internet to find studies that call into question some of the basic assumptions shared by many of us oceans 'environmentalists'. At the very least, they are interesting to consider - and if our assumptions are as robust as we believe, they should certainly be able to stand up to these and similar studies.

So, here you go: three studies to challenge your most basic assumptions about how to best conserve marine ecosystems!

- A very recent study suggests that coral reefs that are protected from fisheries impacts may incur proportionally greater damage during a bleaching event, relative to non-protected reefs. While this isn't the first paper to suggest that protected areas can't protect corals from things like bleaching, it does seem, on the surface at least, to challenge the generally accepted relationship between diversity and resilience. (I personally have a few questions about the methods and interpretation. Furthermore, it's important to note that the deep-sea corals found in Canada's Pacific region can't fall victim to coral bleaching - their primary direct threat is still damage from bottom-contact fishing gear, the impacts of which are very much prevented by protected areas).

- Another recent study challenges the widely-held assumption that highly-selective fishing gears are better for marine ecosystems, because highly-selective gears have a tendency to alter biodiversity in ways that can subsequently alter entire marine ecosystems. Instead, the authors suggest that less-selective gears, when combined with reduced fishing pressure on target species, may actually be better for marine ecosystems as a whole.

And finally, going into the wayback machine: this study from a full three years ago suggests that harvesting prey species can actually benefit predator species that have been substantially reduced in number.

Craziness! it?

No comments:

Post a Comment