Ecologists remap the biosphere to include humans

ESA ecologists have released a new map of the biosphere based on global patterns of ecosystem form and process created by humans- a 21st century challenge to the now classic biome maps that appear in nearly every ecology textbook. [See the article in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, available at http://www.ecotope.org/people/ellis/papers/ellis_2008.pdf.] Global data from satellites and land management statistics were used to map a new system of “anthropogenic biomes”, “anthromes”, or “human biomes” that describe the biosphere as it exists today, the result of human reshaping of ecosystems.Results demonstrate that less than 20% of Earth’s ice-free land is wild, and only 20% of this is forests; more than 36% is barren, such that Earth’s remaining wildlands account for only about 10% of global net primary production. Anthropogenic biomes are not simple vegetation categories, and are best characterized as heterogeneous landscape mosaics combining a variety of different land uses and land covers. Urban areas are embedded within agricultural land, trees are interspersed with croplands and housing, and managed vegetation is mixed with semi-natural vegetation (e.g. croplands are embedded within rangelands and forests). For example, Croplands biomes are mostly mosaics of cultivated land mixed with trees and pastures, and therefore possess just slightly more than half of the world’s total crop-covered area (8 of 15 million km2), with most of the remaining cultivated area found in Village (~25%) and Rangeland (~15%) biomes. While Forested biomes are host to a greater extent of Earth’s tree-covered land, about a quarter of Earth’s tree cover was found in Croplands biomes, a greater extent than that found in Wild forests (~20%).While not a replacement for existing biome systems based on vegetation and climate, anthropogenic biomes offer a new view of the terrestrial biosphere based on the irreversible coupling of human and ecological systems at global scale. This new model of the biosphere moves us away from an outdated view of the world as “natural ecosystems with humans disturbing them” and towards a vision of “human systems with natural ecosystems embedded within them”.

This is a major change in perspective that may prove critical for sustainable management of our biosphere in the 21st century.

Subscribers can also view the work online at http://www.esajournals.org/perlserv/?request=get-abstract&doi=10.1890/070062

View the new maps online in Google Earth at the Encyclopedia of Earth:http://www.eoearth.org/article/Anthropogenic_biome_mapsJoin the BLOG: Can we conserve nature in an anthropogenic biosphere?http://www.earthportal.org/forum/?p=410Contributed by Erle Ellis, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

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15 Comments

  1. For those interested, there is a Discovery News Channel Video on anthropogenic biomes at Youtube:

  2. AS IN THE DAYS OF THE TOWER OF BABEL……….

    Are we communicating as if we are living in a modern day Tower of Babel? Is our unbelievable failure to communicate reasonably and sensibly about whatsoever is somehow real, and to widely share adequate understandings regarding both how the family of humanity “fits” within the natural order of living things and what are the limitations of the planet we inhabit, in evidence here and now?

    Perhaps the human community is indeed in a serious predicament, but only in part because of the objective biological and physical circumstances defining our distinctly human-driven predicament. The global challenges in the offing are further complicated by our incredible failure to communicate effectively about the potentially pernicious results derived from having recklessly grown a soon to become patently unsustainable, colossal global economy, one that we have artificially designed, conveniently constructed, and unrealistically expanded without regard for the requirements of biophysical reality.

    Could it be that the current gigantic scale and unchecked growth rate of the global economy is unsustainably driving both per human over-consumption and unrestrained human population growth toward the point in human history when the willful, relentless, unregulated growth of consumption, production and propagation of the human species precipitates the collapse of Earth’s ecology, even in these early years of Century XXI?

    Steven Earl Salmony
    AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population, established 2001
    http://sustainabilitysoutheast.org

  3. Humanity is in clear & present danger of losing the exquisite value to be found in one of God’s gifts to humanity: the carefully and skillfully developed science on climate change.

    Is it possible that the standards for determining what is real and true in our culture today are these: whatsoever is widely shared, consensually validated and judged to be ecomonically expedient, politically convenient, socially agreeable and religiously tolerated is true and real……….. the biophysical conditions of the natural world notwithstanding?

    At least to me, it seems that good science is ignored, countless distractions presented or else silence allowed to prevail whenever reasonable and sensible evidence comes into conflict with what culture prescribes as real and true. Perhaps science does present culture with evidence of inconvenient truths.

    Steven Earl Salmony, Ph.D., M.P.A.
    AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population, established 2001
    http://sustainabilitysoutheast.org/

  4. OUR contrived logic, linear thinking, material obsessiveness and mechanistic world view, that we see pervading the predominant culture on Earth in OUR time, could result in the children following OUR EXAMPLE and recklessly charging down a “primrose path” to be confronted by a colossal ecologic or economic wreckage, the likes of which only Ozymandias has seen.

    Steven Earl Salmony
    AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population
    http://sustainabilitysoutheast.org/

  5. As the human race pushes the earth towards an Extinction Event we hominids will probably not survive. In our rush to provide prosperity for all we forget that there is always a price to be paid. It is reasonable to assume that life will survive but not us. Unless we change.

  6. A rising tide of humanity worldwide…..a tide that reminds me of the most gigantic tsunami, one that is larger than any in recorded history, appears in the offing.

    Dear Avinash J. and Friends All,

    Necessary adjustments in human behavior will occur. We will change.

    If we are serious about assuming our responsibilities as guardians or stewards of the Earth, and I believe all of us are sincere, then perhaps we could benefit from examining the scientific evidence from Russell Hopfenberg, Ph.D. and David Pimentel, Ph.D. on the dynamics of absolute global human population numbers. Please bear with me. Who knows, it might be possible for us and our brothers and sisters in the human community to respond more ably to the human-induced global challenges that are already dimly visible, as if seen “through a glass darkly,” on the far horizon.

    Almost all the people I know will reflexively reassure one another by saying to each other and to all that food is continuously and maximally produced in order to feed a growing population. They say no basis whatever exists to question this statement. It is accepted everywhere as if it is an irrefutable fact, one firmly supported in good science, we have been repetitiously told for much too long a time. I would like for us to take just a moment to consider that potentially catastrophic circumstances could result from maintaining this colossal misperception.

    The apparently unforeseen scientific research from Hopfenberg and Pimentel indicates that the long held, widely shared and consensually validated perspective of almost all experts for the too many years is based on culturally-biased, mistaken impressions and not the product of good science.

    To even suggest that the relationship be reversed by saying that more available food drives growth in the human population in a positive feedback loop, just as this “cycle” occurs with other living things, is everywhere eschewed.

    Why would the mere statement that food supply drives human population like other species, rather than the other way around, be anathema to so many people? What would lead our brightest and best minds, inside and outside of science, during my entire lifetime to continuously ignore or else adamantly deny, up to this very day, what we can recognize now as specious thinking and theorizing?

    Why are Wolfgang Lutz, David Coleman, Caroline Ash, Carl Haub, Peter Gleick, Peter Raven, M.H.King, Thoraya Obaid, Joel Cohen, Jesse Ausubel, Nafis Sadik, Richard Cincotta, Cynthia Lloyd, Ken Arrow, Jeff Sachs, Bob Engleman, Jonathan Lash, Marc Hixson, Jane Lubchenco, Paul Demeny, John Bongaarts, Bill Ryan, Barney Cohen and Gary Gardner among many too many experts, unwilling to examine and report as responsible professionals on the evidence presented by Drs. Hopfenberg and Pimentel?

    From my humble perspective, the research from Hopfenberg and Pimentel contains an inconvenient truth about the human species. Their evidence indicates that the population dynamics of the human species is common to, not different from, the population dynamics of other species. So what, you might ask. Well, please now, consider what it could mean if food supply drives human species numbers. Although unexpected, this research indicates with remarkable simplicity and clarity, at least to me, that as long as we increase food production/distribution capabilities worldwide, absolute global population numbers of the human species will grow. Increases in obtainable food will result in increases in newborns. More food equals more people; less food equals less people; and in any and every case, without exception, no food equals no people. Just like the numbers of other organisms in the natural world, human numbers will grow without limits, as long as enough food is made available to make existence possible. Human organisms propagate like other living things, come what may.

    The ‘expert scientific thinking’ regarding the “end of population growth soon” and the widely validated demographic transition theory could be an example of specious thought and theory. The evidence for some kind of demographic transition and an end to human population growth in the middle of this century appears to be a product of wishful thinking and faulty reasoning, I suppose, and can be seen now as fundamentally flawed, unrealistic, and unsupported by good science.

    For the moment, I will stop here but not before extending every good wish to you and all for a happy and healthy 2008.

    Sincerely,

    Steve

    Steven Earl Salmony, Ph.D., M.P.A.
    AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population, established 2001

  7. Perhaps we can agree that global challenges, already visible on the far horizon, could soon be posed to humanity. Because economic globalization could be approaching a point in human history when it becomes patently unsustainable on a planet with the relatively small size and make-up of Earth, the current scale and unbridled growth of global consumption/production/propagation activities of the human species could produce a colossal wreckage of either the global economy or Earth’s ecology, even in these early years of Century XXI.

    If leaders are presented with a forced choice between protecting the global economy and preserving Earth’s ecology, it seems crystal clear to me that the leadership of the kind we have today will reflexively choose the economy…..first, last and always.

    What do you think?

    Sincerely,

    Steve

    Steve Salmony
    AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population, established 2001

  8. Selfish, paternalistic managerialism and the twilight zone of endless growth.

    The ruling politicians and economic brokers who maintain control over a lion’s share of the world’s wealth and military power in our time are in denial of reality. They want what they want and, as they tell us in demonstrable ways, they will have whatsoever they desire, come what may for our children, biodiversity, coming generations, global ecosystems and the integrity of Earth.

    The leaders in my not-so-great generation apparently wish to live without having to accept limits to growth of seemingly endless economic globalization, increasing per capita consumption of scarce resources and skyrocketing human population numbers worldwide; their desires are evidently insatiable; they choose to believe anything that meet the `standards’ for political convenience and economic expediency; and they act accordingly. But, despite all their widely shared and consensually validated specious ideas and soon to be unsustainable production, consumption and propagation activities, Earth exists in space-time, is relatively small and bounded, and has limited resources upon which the survival of life as we know it depends. Whatsoever is is, is it not?

    What worries me is this: the elder guarantors of a good enough future for the children appear to be leading our kids down a “primrose path” along which the children could unexpectedly be confronted with sudden, potentially colossal threats to human and environmental health, threats that are directly derived from converging human-induced global challenges such as pernicious impacts of global warming and climate change, massive pollution of the air, water and land from microscopic particulates and solid waste, and the reckless dissipation of scarce natural resources. All the while, the leading elders remain willfully and foolishly in denial of the fulminating ecological degradation by declining to acknowledge, much less beginning to address, humanity’s emerging, human-driven predicament. One day, perhaps sooner rather than later, our children could have extraordinary difficulties responding ably to that with which they could soon come face to face; that is to say, because their elders have so adamantly refused to so much as openly recognize God’s great gift of good science of global warming and climate change, our kids will not even know what “hit” them, much less why it is happening.

  9. Yes, I also think we are in need of collective plans for action in order to reasonably and sensibly address any of the global challenges induced primarily and essentially by the human species.

    Individual actions are certainly necessary, but clearly not sufficient. Not even a billion individual acts would be adequate or could amount to what would be gained from one able collective response by the human community. The human species will either learn to act collectively by cooperating and sharing, for the common good now as well as for future generations, or else reap the whirlwind, I suppose.

    Our collective failure to so much as acknowledge virtual mountains of good scientific evidence of human-forced global challenges before humanity, could be a mistake of colossal proportions.

    Steven Earl Salmony
    AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population, established 2001
    http://sustainabilitysoutheast.org/

  10. History teaches us empires come and go, rise and fall; but history provides no evidence for the existence of so huge, and soon to become unsustainable, an empire, one that actually threatens to engulf the surface of our planetary home in the way the seemingly endless expansion of the “economic globalization empire” is doing in our time.

    The gigantic scale and rapid growth rate of the unbridled, global big-business empire, the one we recognize as the predominant human construction on Earth, appears to be approaching a point in history when this economic empire irreversibly degrades Earth’s frangible ecosystems, dangerously dissipates its limited resources, and recklessly diminishes Earth’s capacity to offer a fit place for human habitation by our children and coming generations.

    Steven Earl Salmony
    AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population, established 2001

  11. Humanity has been warned repeatedly about the threat to humanity, to life as we know it, to the viability of recognizably frangible global ecosystems and to the integrity of Earth and its limited resources that could be posed to humankind by the unbridled growth of absolute global human population numbers. Because we want human beings to be fed and to have jobs so they can feed themselves and their families, the growth of human numbers has lead great thinkers and scientists to regularly remind the human community of the impacts of unregulated human propagation, unrestrained consumption and rampantly expanding production activities in our planetary home.
    Every possible bias, rhetorical device and “spin” appears to have been employed to deny the mounting evidence of the potential for impending ecological calamities and economic disasters from the near exponential growth of human numbers worldwide. Recently, good scientific evidence of climate change, about the way the world works, has been systematically discredited; leading elders of the political economy have consciously conspired to mislead the public by misrepresenting the science and by turning climate science into a “political football” of sorts; ideological groups sponsored by super-rich, large-scale corporate ‘citizens’ have spread uncertainty and confusion in discussions about the nature of the biophysical world in which we live; and controversy has been manufactured where none would have otherwise existed.

    The illusion of meaningful debate has been foisted upon the public by leaders who are evidently intent on “poisoning the well” of public discourse by knowingly and selfishly fostering disinformation campaigns for the purpose of enhancing their own financial interests……..come what may for our children, coming generations, global biodiversity, the environment, and the Earth as a fit place for human habitation.

    The elder guarantors of a good enough future for the children appear to be leading our kids down a “primrose path” along which the children could unexpectedly be confronted with sudden, potentially colossal threats to human and environmental health that appear to be derived from human-driven, converging global challenges such as pernicious impacts of global warming and climate change, pollution of the air, water and land from microscopic particulates and solid waste, and the reckless dissipation of scarce natural resources. All the while, these leading elders remain in denial of the fulminating ecological degradation by willfully declining to acknowledge, much less begin to address, humanity’s emerging, human-induced predicament. One day, perhaps sooner rather than later, our children could have extraordinary difficulties responding ably to that with which they could soon come face to face; that is to say, because their leaders have so adamantly refused to acknowlege God’s great gift of the good science of biological and physical reality, our kids will not even know what “hit” them, much less why it is happening.

    Please note the concerns I am trying to communicate are expressed much better today by Cameron Smith at the following link.

    http://www.thestar.com/Article/297574

    As always, your thoughts are welcome.

    Steven Earl Salmony
    AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population, established
    http://sustainabilitysoutheast.org/

  12. Please consider a few open questions related to the ominous potential for mass devastation that could result from human-induced climate change between now and 2025.

    Is it somehow harmful to ask direct questions like this one regarding good scientific evidence of the potential for either apocalyptic climate change or pernicious impacts from the rapidly growing, colossal presence of the human species on Earth?

    Are willful blindness, hysterical deafness or elective mutism ever acceptable “defenses” for scientists who choose to deny evidence derived from good science?

    Is there some reasonable, sensible or moral foundation upon which faithful scientists can stand upright and say, “I refuse to acknowledge carefully and skillfully gained scientfic evidence if I cannot refute it?”

    Are scientists who present good evidence of climate change and human population dynamics, even though their research is plainly unforeseen and surely unwelcome, entitled to have their evidence openly discussed by professional colleagues with established expertise?

    If the global challenges looming before humanity are as formidable as the best available scientific evidence indicates, then is the family of humanity not well-advised to begin widely sharing in open discussions in the mass media, not just in blogs like this one, what is to be done in order to avoid whatsoever is unmanageable, while managing and mitigating everything else?

    Steven Earl Salmony
    AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population,
    established 2001

  13. Dear Dr. L. B.,

    I am imagining that your questions are rhetorical ones.

    You ask,

    “Why are politicians and skeptics so willing to risk their future and everyone else’s future on blindly clinging to a course of action that has a high probability of leading to a seriously crippled future? If you even suspect that global warming represents a serious risk to your survival (and we have far more than suspicion these days), why wouldn’t you do everything protect and conserve your planet?”

    It would please me to hear from others; but from my humble perspective the “answers” to your questions are all-too-obvious.

    First, the leaders in my generation of elders wish to live without having to accept limits to growth of seemingly endless economic globalization, of increasing per capita consumption and skyrocketing human population numbers; our desires are evidently insatiable. We choose to believe anything that is politically convenient, economically expedient and socially agreeable; our way of life is not negotiable. We dare anyone to question our values or behaviors.

    We religiously promote our shared fantasies of endless economic growth and soon to be unsustainable overconsumption, overproduction oand overpopulation activities, and in so doing deny that Earth has limited resources upon which the survival of life as we know it depends.

    Second, my not-so-great generation appears to be doing a disservice to everything and everyone but ourselves. We are the “what’s in it for me?” generation. We demonstrate precious little regard for the maintenance of the integrity of Earth; shallow willingness to actually protect the environment from crippling degradation; lack of serious consideration for the preservation of biodiversity, wilderness, and a good enough future for our children and coming generations; and no appreciation of the understanding that we are no more or less than human beings with “feet of clay.”

    We live in a soon to be unsustainable way in our planetary home and are proud of it, thank you very much. Certainly, we will “have our cake and eat it, too.” We will fly around in thousands of private jets and live in McMansions, go to our secret clubs and distant hideouts, and risk nothing of value to us. Please do not bother us with the problems of the world. We choose not to hear, see or speak of them. We are the economic powerbrokers, their bought-and-paid-for politicians and the many minions in the mass media. We hold the much of the wealth and the power it purchases. If left to our own devices, we will continue in the exercise of our ‘rights’ to ravenously consume Earth’s limited resources; to expand economic globalization unto every corner of our natural world and, guess what, beyond; to encourage the unbridled growth of the human species so that where there are now 6+ billion people, by 2050 we will have 9+ billion members of the human community and, guess what, even more people, perhaps billions more in the distant future, if that is what we desire.

    We are the reigning, self-proclaimed masters of the universe. We have no regard for human limits or Earth’s limitations, thank you very much. Please understand that we do not want anyone to present us with scientific evidence that we could be living unsustainably in an artificially designed, temporary world of our own making…… a manmade world filling up with distinctly human enterprises which appear the be approaching a point in human history when global consumption, production and propagation activities of the human species become unsustainable on the tiny planet God has blessed us to inhabit….. and not to overwhelm, I suppose.

    Third, even our top rank scientists have not found adequate ways of communicating to the family of humanity what people somehow need to hear, see and understand: the reckless dissipation of Earth’s limited resources, the relentless degradation of the planet’s frangible environment, and the approaching destruction of the Earth as a fit place for human habitation by the human species, when taken together, appear to be proceeding at a breakneck pace toward the precipitation of a catastrophic ecological wreckage of some sort unless, of course, the world’s colossal, ever expanding, artificially designed, manmade global economy continues to speed headlong toward the monolithic ‘wall’ called “unsustainability” at which point the runaway economy crashes before Earth’s ecology is collapsed.

    Sincerely,

    Steve

  14. Press release19-04-2008

    Fisher people demand justice for climate refugees

    South Indian fishing community conference on Climate change and
    Fisherpeople’s livelihood was held on 17th April 2008 at Rotary Community
    hall,Nagercoil, Kanyakumari district. This event was organized by
    TamilnaduFisher workers Union (TFU), Kerala Independent Fish workers
    Federation(KSMTF) and Voices from the Margins (VFM).

    Mr. T. Peter Dass, President,Tamilnadu Fish workers Union (TFU) delivered
    welcome address and he pointed out that fisher people are facing sea erosion
    as a result ofclimate change. This public event is recognized as the first
    one organized by the affected community against Climate Change and fisher
    people have decided to launch public protest for their sufferings as a
    result ofclimate change.

    Mr.M.Pakkirisamy, district revenue officer inaugurated this workshop and in
    his Chief Guest address said that sea level is rising in the last pastdecade
    at an unimaginable rate of increase. Sea level is expected raise 5 meters in
    the next 50 years and it is going to affect the fisher people.There is a
    need to change the consumption pattern to avoid the expansion of the hole in
    ozone layer.

    Mr. K.P. Sasi, activist film maker wondered what the government is doing to
    stop the carbon emission? There is a need to change the production process
    of the industries, agriculture and the energy systems. Nothing is done so
    far to the people affected by climate change and marginalized people who are
    becoming refugees as a result of ecological impacts thrustupon them.

    Dr. A.D.Shobana Raj, ecological researcher highlighted the factthat the
    coastal Kanyakumari district has 56 km long coast with apopulation density
    of 1500 per sq.km; and the coast line is vanishing. 80% of the water
    resources in the coastal area have become saline and peopleare facing water
    crisis because of the intrusion of sea water. 132 coastal sea weeds have
    disappeared in the last 10 years. If the global temperature rises 2 degree
    Celsius then it will have impact on micro organisms leadingto several
    contagious diseases affecting coastal people.

    Dr. S.P.Udayakumar social activist demanded that our energy consumption
    pattern should change. The solution for climate change lies in shifting our
    energy sector from fossil fuel dependent sector to renewable energy. Our
    transportation pattern should move towards effective and efficientpublic
    transport system rather than promoting cars which will lead toincrease in
    carbon emission and vehicular pollution.

    Mr. Sathya Sivaraman,journalist & film maker stressed the need to pinpoint
    who emits more carbon and who should pay for carbon credit. USA is
    responsible for 25% ofcarbon emission and it should take the responsibility
    in compensation to the victims of carbon emission and climate change. The
    relationship of Human species to Earth should be the equivalent to child and
    mother, but this species has taken up the role of the destroyer of the earth
    and other species. Carbon emitting industries should be changed and if this
    is not possible all such industries should be closed.

    After the people’s response, Mr. T.Peter president KSMTF demanded that
    chemical farming practices, polluting industries and carbon emitting
    lifestyle should be stopped since the fisher people are the most affected
    bythe climate change. Today, this public event is organized with the
    conviction that the affected communities can not remain in halls but there
    is a need to launch mass public protest not just for their survival alonebut
    for the entire humanity locally, nationally and internationally.

    In the concluding session Mr. S.M.Prithiviraj, Convener, Voices from the
    Margins explained how the marginalized farmers of the Tamilnadu are affected
    by climate change in recent heavy rains as a result unusual low pressure in
    Arabian Sea. Fisher people are affected by changes in pattern of fish catch,
    reduction in fish wealth, and loss of working days as a result of climate
    change and tidal waves and their houses are washed away by intruding sea in
    many places of South India. Why should the fisherpeople pay for the impacts
    of climate change entirely created by other vested interests? The conference
    ended with a resolution questioning the polluting industries, chemical
    farming practices, non-renewable energy sectors,carbon emitting life style
    and the need for taxing the polluters to paythe price for ecologically
    affected fisher people and other marginalized communities.

    Press release issued byTamilnadu Fisher workers Union (TFU)
    Ph:09443294198
    Kerala Independent Fish workers Federation (KSMTF)
    Ph:09447429243and
    Voices from the Margins
    (VFM)Ph:09843080963____________________________________

  15. A CLARION CALL FOR CLIMATE ACTION

    A particularly pernicious disturbance exists in the human community. ELECTIVE MUTISM is one of the great, clear and present dangers to human and environmental health. It is a worldwide “plague” in our time from which many too many in the vast community of science suffer egregiously. That elective mutism has afflicted so many in the social sciences is one thing. The family of humanity can understand, I suppose, how social scientists do not possess the most adequate expertise to speak out loudly and clearly regarding the emerging and converging global challenges derived from the human overpopulation of Earth.

    On the other hand, what I find reprehensible and unbelievable is the way scientists with appropriate expertise in the physical and biological sciences, whatever their excuses, are choosing not to fullfil their professional responsibilities and not to discharge duties only they can perform. Their willful refusal to comment on good scientific evidence of the human species’ overpopulation of the planetary home God blesses us to inhabit is as unacceptable as it is perverse.

    Sincerely,

    Steve

    Steven Earl Salmony
    AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population,
    established 2001
    http://sustainabilitysoutheast.org/

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  1. Strolling through ‘anthromes‘ « SpaceFlaneur - [...] Januar 12, 2008 von mawerner You can find a new map of the biosphere recently released …

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