Complexity is an adaptive response.
Adverse conditions often increase the stamina and adaptive ability of survivors.
All living creatures have a complex large molecule at their core called DNA for short by biologists. DNA or deoxyribonucleic acid depicted here in the picture at left by the twisted blue lines with orange - red -- green and purple cross pieces. The frog in the picture is depicted with the amphibian's interim or tadpole stage (polywog) and the cluster of eggs, Each fertilized egg has a complete set of DNA molecules in the cell's nucleus called chromosomes. These dark staining bodies, called chromosomes, are where the molecules of heredity. As large molecules capable of being inherited, or passed on, DNA are protected from external conditions such as ultraviolet radiation from the sun or acid rain, acidic water or pollution in the lake or streams.
Over time the affects of the conditions of existence on proteins, chromosomes and cells is to select for a diverse array of adapted forms. Turtles and frogs for example are very different, yet successful forms of life that have descended from a common ancestor hundreds of millions of years ago. Frogs have adjusted to life on earth for the succeeding millions of years. Today many frogs around the world are disappearing. From ultraviolet radiation to pollution there could be several reasons for the decline in amphibians worldwide.
If the reason for worldwide decline in frogs is complex interactions, among atmosphere, water pollution and habitat fragmentation, the lesson is that life today is on the threshold of a new combination of threats. Global ecological conditions, in many key natural areas, are undergoing rapid change. Some writers, such as Bill McKibben see these wholly novel threats due to ozone loss, acid rain and climate change as the most serious test of complexity, and complex adaptive systems, we have ever experienced.
Another example of complexity is the conditions associated with river mouths. Estuary is the geographical term applied to the mouth of a river. Estuaries are coastal water bodies that display this adaptive response among plants and animals to the ecologically challenging conditions of fluctuating and reversing water flow, saline and brackish water chemistry, and competition from dry land, river and marine species! See Marshes of the Ocean Shore.
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Trees cling to the slopes below "Half Dome" in Yosemite National Park, 1994.
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exotic organelles that feed, sustain and assist our cells to procreate.
Paul and Ann Ehrlich on human biology and origins.
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All of these microscopic living machines function to maximize the survival conditions within our cells. Collectively the cells constitute the organism and collectively organisms constitute the species. As species collaborate in particular geographical locations and habitats they constitute a biological community. We are all, as Aldo Leopold said, citizens of the biotic community. These constituent elements of ecological systems are what is meant by the biological wealth of the planet. When we lose species that wealth is diminished. As just part of our natural heritage in America, our biological wealth is diminishing as our population growth, expansion of living areas and consumption of resources is robbing the landscape of repositories of that biological wealth that is the natural and cultural heritage of all humankind.
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The areas of the USA with the greatest loss in species are among the fastest growing places in the country: Arizona, Florida, California, Texas, and Hawaii. Unable to keep pace with the growth of human settlements the areas available for fisheries and wildlife have shrunk to unsustainable sizes for forests to nourish the streams that feed both wildlife and civilization.
In each area of the country the fight over rights to extract resources by competing human sectors is converting wild lands thereby depriving wildlife of the very means of subsistence.
There are three basic types of threats to animals and plants and thus the endangerment has three dimensions. First is the fragmentation of habitats that isolate species into smaller land units than are capable of sustaining the species. The second problem is the actual decline in the genetic diversity of a species, such as the Florida Panther making the remaining thirty animals incapable of withstanding opportunistic infections. poor health or other stresses. The third threat is the pollution of the biotic community or a disruption of the nutrient cycling within a biological community to the extent that the wildlife undergoes a dramatic decline such as the wading bird population of the Everglades or the drastic decline in the numbers of California Condors.
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The journal kept by John Muir was thus titled: "Earth, Planet, Universe." to convey a sense of place. Muir came to understand that all things were interconnected as he suggested "Everything is hitched to everything else." He recognized, as did Emerson, that we are tied by invisible material and spiritual threads to the fabric of creation, evolution and ecology. It was beyond a narrow economic vision to see how the livelihood of our human race was inherently bound to the livelihood of fisheries, birds and all living things.
Muir warned his fellows that forests made for rivers to flow. Rivers nourished fisheries, wildlife and cities. Cities encouraged human values and ecological ethics. Ethics in turn, he saw would have to turn humans from takers of resources into caretakers of God's creation. Muir discovered in the wild woods, soaring mountains and roaring streams the divinity of all creation to cherish forever and ever as a kingdom of power crafted to announce the glory of a just, merciful and loving deity.
Thus it matters very little if people believe creation is designed by God to reveal the complexity of his mind, or that the world by stochastic trial and error emerged with life flooding into its every recesses. Complexity as a gift from either a designer, or an unintended coevolving living system is inherent in our world.
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Biological Diversity is an indicator of the extent to which complexity of life on earth thrives in some areas as opposed to other places. From the bacterial and alga worlds of waters and oceans to the air and the ice, life has colonized the darkest recesses, the hottest cauldrons and the highest abodes with microscopic organisms that make the whole planet function properly for life to continue existing. The sheer variety if these bacterial and algae concentrations defies our lopsided system of classification. But we now know that without the microscopic world the large mammals and predators that charismatically appeal to our imaginations such as sharks, wolves, whales and elephants could never have descended from common ancestors let alone flourish on earth today. Beneath our very feet and noses are the tiny living beings that enable the earth to harbor life, allow the sun to sustain that life, and afford us the chance to breathe, eat and nourish all our needs.
Climate and biodiversity
We are still learning that the air, water bodies, wetlands, forests, soils and shorelines are common property resources that belong to no one in particular. Instead they are the property of all people who depend on their ecological services and evolutionary roles to sustain, nourish and thus enable life to flourish on earth. Humans are but a small participant in this vast array of animal, vegetal, and mineral associations that bring nutrients to all creatures and remove waste from all living things.
Without this circuit of living, dying and renewing parts of the whole, the earth and our world, as we cherish it would cease to exist. The great tragedy is that we think we can own these resources without paying too great an attention to the necessity of giving back to the earth what it has allowed us to take away from it in the form of resources. All resources ultimately belong to the common property of all living kind.
|Even the smartest and most effective transformation of natural features or materials into commercial resources requires the craftsman to return some portion of the material once taken away from, back to the earth to renew this bargain of life. Unless we give in proportion to what we receive we break the covenant of reciprocal favors forming a stewards' faith that binds all creatures together on this living earth.|
|Artists rendering of the Earth 180 million years ago|
Ideas on this web site are used to convey concepts about the complex character of the Earth's biological wealth, the importance of that living storehouse of evolving wealth and the various ways such biological diversity adds to the human quality of life on earth.
Complexity emerges from the decay of neutrons and exists on several levels from:
Coevolution refers to the complementary changes in animals over time that are related to one another in terms of their ecological means of making a living and their descent from a common ancestor. The term may also refer to the coexistence of animals and plants or plants and fungus or bacteria and plants in the same organism so that the survival of one is dependent on the continued existence of the other. There are entire plant and animal communities on earth that are made up of coevolving organisms. For example the tundra is comprised of lichens. Lichens are actually symbiotic organisms made up of plants and fungus that together live better than they would independently. Another example is coral reefs where animals called polyps live together with single celled algae. Together they thrive more successfully than they would otherwise on their own.
Change due to the ice age.
On a different scale it can be said, by way of analogy: geology, life and climate on earth have coevolved. Each aspect of the living world have collaborated and shaped nature as we see it now. The atmosphere is a product of life, the earth's biological diversity is an insurance policy against the loss of ecological integrity. Based on water - energy - air - air - land the inorganic complex provides the optimal crucible for life. We dwell on a craft managed by and for living things.
Insects are believed to have assisted in the spread of seed bearing and eventually flowering plants because they spread the pollen from one plant to another. That means they encourage the fertilization of plants. Interestingly enough, bats and insects are the principle means of many plants becoming impregnated with the hereditary material of other plants of the same species.
Thus the world of the quark and the Jaguar in a jungle are not simple, but the products of complex adaptive systems whose inherent responsiveness to conditions generates opportunities for ever more wondrously adapted living creatures from whom we have all descended to play this game of life.
Murray Gell-Mann on complexity
The Quark and the Jaguar
Tool complex | complexity problem | behavioral complexity in technology studies | social
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