Saturday, January 19, 2008

The King of Spades Part II, Population Dynamics

Population Dynamics

There are those who insist that all life forms follow a distinctive bell shape pattern as the population builds, peaks, descends. Nothing could be further from the truth! Or actual scientific fact. I have been studying population cycles of snowshoe hare and ruffed grouse, almost my entire life. I've thousands of hours of research and practical study of these two species. For the most part research has stopped for these two species long ago. There are only so many times one can add two and two and come up with four, again, again and yet again. Time and again, research has only come up with what was already known.

What's so intriguing about these two species? Well their population cycles display a certain pattern described as "cyclic", that is there is a predictable amount of time between cycles and this has likely occurred for thousands of years. Scientists are no further today than when they started as to explaining why these cycles occur. Some have come to the conclusion, including myself, that this phenomena is "divine" in nature.... Furthermore, even when conditions are manipulated, such as improved habitat, lower predation and even lowering the population itself, this has no apparent effect on the timing of the cycle itself. Perhaps, this is nature's way of keeping balance and insuring survival of the species?

Last year, while explaining this to the readers at BNB and being sensitive to them, I left out the part of manipulation having no effect upon the cycle itself. Of course, using this information supported my case that a die-off could occur within a very short time span, under the lights are out for good, scenario. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, this presented that crashes in population or die-offs have occurred naturally, here on this earth. Some people on this post had to be convinced of this fact...

One personality on this post needed little convincing that hares could "drop dead" overnight. His name was Kentar, and he held a long decline view, describing that it may take centuries for our population to unwind. Kentar recalled during his childhood out west somewhere, that hares would continue to populate until their preferred food source was exhausted. Once this happened, he recalled going out picking up the dead bodies and burning them in a pile. I was somewhat shocked that he'd offer this support as it seemed we were always at the opposite ends of the spectrum. However, I greatly admired his prospective, sound logic in supporting his position and the overall comforting nature about him. Kentar used alot of historical information in supporting his stance. My view of the human population had been of a linear one, forever rising from the stone age on, this is supported by any graph that depicts human history. Kentar on the other hand argued that humanity's population was a cyclical one. I contended that this sudden spike in human population that occurred in the last one hundred years had never happened before. While Kentar maintained it indeed happened before and that it would likely happen again. At the time, even now, I'm open to this idea that our population could fall to even a near extinction level and come back. This in fact has happened at other times in prehistoric times. We both agreed that the next cycle would likely be of a lessor population, since there would not be enough resources left to enable a population to grow at this level. I was finding myself agreeing with almost all of what Kentar was trying to convey. Surely, this man was educated much the same way I was, why was he so sure this would be a "long emergency"?


FARfetched said...

Of course, you're aware of the Isle Royale wolf/moose cycles that have been studied in depth as well and follow the same kind of pattern.

Your graph is interesting — the hares seem to crash every 10 years, like clockwork. This is your own study?

yooper said...

Hey Far! Yup, I'm familiar with the Isle Royal project. Very interesting as this was on an island, isolated from other enviromental factors. I'll be discussing to what happened to the deer herd when they were introduced to North Manitou Island here in Michigan, probably in my next post.

The graph is'nt mine, however, yes, my own study of snowshoe hares support this cycle of ten years, as do the hundreds of other like studies, thoughout North America. The same cam be said of ruffed grouse and their 12 year cycle.

I'll be discussing what the effects of isolation has and how it relates to the extinction process. This is by far the most misunderstood aspect of population dynamics and the most damning for certain populations. I want to throughly cover this subject and be as accurate as I can be, so people can make up their own minds on what action to take, if any at all. Thanks for the comments and questions as it's jogging my memory on points made last year on BNB.

I feel I did'nt cover this topic adequate enough over there and know of one person who was hurt(their feelings), over it. However, this person does post over at JMG, and I'm sure, in time they'll find this message.