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Marjorie Reaka-Kudla  

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Ocean biodiversity; Coral bleaching  

NPR/NGS Radio Expeditions

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NPR/NGS -RADIO EXPEDITIONS
"Oceans of Life"
Interview with Marjorie Reaka-Kudla

Bob Radcliffe: Q: Extinction has been around....the die off of species for a long time, why all the concern about the losing of species now?

1:09 MR: We are facing a rapid increase in human populations that is going up exponentially, and people have projected the current rates of extinction going into 2050, 2060 years from now, and it looks as though we may lose a major proportion of our species. It's true that this is not unique, there have been mass extinctions.... there have been as many of 95% of all species that died off at the end of the paleozoic.....what happened was that life reemerged out of the diversity that was present at that time [1:59]

BR: If has always been these die-offs, Why all the concern, this will happen again?

MR: 2:13 Yes. One factor is the recovery time. 5-10 million years after even a rather small mass extinction.....even more important in terms of biodiversity which is the diversity of species on earth all the way from microbes to marine algae to terrestrial plants to mammals, birds. The animals and plants that we have on the earth now came from the repositories of diversity of those last major mass extinctions, and if you don't have a broad variety of diversity of present, then there's not as much genetic variety from which to build new sources of linneages of animals and plants to remake the world after a mass extinction. [3:06]

BR: ....even though extinctions in the past, the major difference this time is that man is having a bigger impact than before.

MR: 3:46 Yes, Humans are modifying the environment, and modifying it in such a way, that the diversity of species are no longer able to persist, and in fact, we are seeing extinctions. [3:59]

BR: Might be overwhelmed....

MR: Yes, not only by the numbers of humans and their needs, in terms of land for their agricultural products, or products from the sea, overfishing, we're modifying forest lands in for crops, affecting the atmosphere and causing erosion of the fertility which cannot sustain either humans and the diversity of the species which are needed to come through any kinds of extinction events.

BR: 4:40 -Define biodiversity.

MR: 4:46 Biodiversity, the term comes from a symposium in which E.O. Wilson was the main speaker, hosted at Smithsonian, 1986, and Biodiversity was the name of the book which was the result of the first gathering of scientists to discuss issues of conservation of species................it's derived from biological diversity, the diversity of species that there are on on earth, (BR: variety of life?) yes, species are each type of life, can also include varieties within species, usually we mean the number of different kinds of species, humans, cows, dogs, fish, crabs, oysters..... "5:46

BR: What do we get from the oceans in the way of biodiversity?

MR: 5:52 The oceans have lower spcies diversity than the land, as far as we know, although we have studied the oceans far less than we have the land and so there may be many, many more species, and more different types of organisms than we know....examples of recently discovered species.

BR: What do the oceans give us in terms of biodiversity?

MR: 6:32 Well, there are two levels: one, is that we say the oceans have higher level biodiversity and that is major different types of organisms, scientists call them phyla, and it means organisms that are as different as a crab versus an oyster, an insect versus a fish.

BR: If we didn't have biodiversity, what we lose from the oceans? What do we get out of the oceans that we would lose if biodiversity was severely crippled?

MR: 7:06 One of the main things that our oceans do for us, for human benefit, is provide protein, food. Half of the world's population lives along the coastal margins of continents, and in many nations including much of southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands, 90% of the protein -the important part of the food people get -is from the oceans, from the coastal seas.

BR: How about other things, medicine.... ?

MR: 7:49 Absolutely. That's why this higher level biodiversity is important. The oceans have more than twice as much of these higher level categories of organisms as do land environments. And there are more different kinds of organisms in the oceans because these organisms have been evolving separately for longer than the more recently evolved land organisms ....

BR: because all life started in the sea.

MR: Yes, exactly, but what that means is that there are more different types of chemicals that make up the bodies of these organisms than we can almost even imagine..... Are something like 43 phyla of these major groups of organisms that live in the sea, and most of those we have not even begun to analyze..... more discussion reo medicines .....what other examples, come to mind.....more re. medicines ....

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