Friday, July 22, 2011

Managed Ecosystems

I've started a bed of native mussels in Black Lake near the dock at my parents' house to peel the zebra mussels off their shells. Invasive zebra mussels attach themselves to the shells of native mussels in such numbers that the native guys die off. Here's a typical native clam:

Walk out into Black Lake and you'll find native clams by the hundreds dug into the soft, sandy bottom. Four years go, a study was done on Black Lake. It was found to be clean, and unusually untouched by invasive species. The DNR guy who did the study called it a "rare gem" of a lake, Black Lake.

Two years ago I was out on a boat with my nephew, showing him native lake species. That kid is amazing. He's a born naturalist with a keen sense of observation. He's six now, and he'll literally squat by some leaves for an hour, just watching...looking at what most of us would just call "leaves". Ask him what he's doing, he'll show you tiny, almost invisible eggs on the undersides of the leaves. He'll show you tiny bugs on the leaves, under the leaves, and smaller plants nearby. Something about that kid. He sees a whole world in a square foot space, and he'll watch it for hours. Anyway...a couple years ago were out on a boat, and I was showing him some of the native species of the lake, pulling up some of the native mussels and handing them to him to look at and then drop back into the water.

Then I pulled one up and my heart skipped a beat when I found a zebra mussel attached to it. It was the first one I'd ever seen in that lake...

That's the week I established a bed of native mussels somewhere I could watch them and pluck zebra mussels off of them from time to time. It's been a couple years now and zebra's are very common in that small lake now. There's no holding them back. I'm on a fools errand to keep my small stronghold of native mussels from being overrun. I go out, I pluck the zebra mussels from their shells and drop the native mussels back into the water.

This is how our waters are going.

This is hour our entire environment is going.

The oceans, not too long from now, are going to be similar to the Great Lakes in that they will become managed so that the rest of us can maintain an illusion of health, and balance.

The Great Lakes aren't a self sustaining healthy ecosystem. They are now a managed ecosystem. They maintain an illusion of balance thanks to the time, and hard work, and money spent by governments and dedicated scientists and workers. It's an endless job to sustain a diverse fish population and keep walking that ecological tight rope so that sturgeon can live in the streams. So that trout can survive. So that the alewives don't take over. So that the lamprey eel doesn't wipe out the fish populations. So that algae doesn't overrun the entire system and create massive dead zones and wash up on shore and rot.

Every year, every day, people are working to maintain the Great Lakes. Whole agencies are tasked with maintaining them so that the rest of us can imagine it's a beautiful, pristine, natural system.

But it's not a self sustaining system.

Not anymore.

It is a managed ecosystem.

This is exactly what we're headed for with larger water bodies, natural wonders, possibly even on a global scale. They'll no longer be balanced, self sustaining systems. They'll be managed. All day. Every day. For as long as we're around.

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