Intelligent Design

Species richness promotes healthy ecosystems

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People who love the countryside and open places tend to value biodiversity and rich ecosystems. There is a perception that a high species diversity helps to stabilise ecosystems by buffering the effects of environmental change, and in addition create ecosystems with greater functionality. According to MacDougall et al. (2013), “Biodiversity can stabilize ecological systems by functional complementarity, with different species thriving under different conditions.” However, scientific underpinning has lagged behind tacit knowledge and we are faced with the growth of monocultures in agricultural husbandry and commercial land use. Nevertheless, the situation is changing, and the benefits of biodiversity are being increasingly recognised. Researchers face the problem of complex patterns of human interventions.


The punchline:

If we start with evidence (that diversity is beneficial) and infer that mechanisms exist for promoting diversity, then we will approach the observational data quite differently from Darwin and the Darwinists. We will recognise mechanisms that deliver diversity (e.g. via recombination of DNA during sexual reproduction). We will find that the genome exhibits plasticity, so that many phenotypes can emerge from the same genotype. Scholars today are developing understanding of phenotypic plasticity – a phenomenon that owes nothing to Darwinism. For more on this topic, go here. For case studies, go here and here.

‘Diversity by design’ is a rational and reasonable starting point for the study of ecology. Those who set out with this perspective will find that they travel along a different path from the one taken by Darwin, and it leads to quite different conclusions. This is a Kuhnian paradigm shift. Dominant and recessive genes are the tip of the iceberg! Speciation that is rapid, rather than gradual, is an indication of diversity by design. When we find non-random mutations or mutation hot spots, these are pointers to designed mechanisms. Epigenetics has the potential for expanding our understanding of the ways for diversity to develop. The more diversity by design is probed, the more it presents itself as a viable and interesting research paradigm.

For the full text, go here.

10 Replies to “Species richness promotes healthy ecosystems

  1. 1
    timothya says:

    How do “people who love the countryside” measure biodiversity? Do they estimate the total number of species present before they decide their degree of love?

    Do they know how many crypto-species are present in the microflora beneath their feet? Even an order-of-magnitude estimate would help.

    What design criterion do you propose that we should use to decide whether a countryside is lovable?

    Are you making this stuff up as you go along, or do you have some science behind your assertions?

  2. 2
    Alan Fox says:

    Are you questioning Dr Taylor’s credentials, Timothy?

  3. 3
    Alan Fox says:


    David Tyler

  4. 4
    bornagain77 says:

    Dr. Tyler, you may appreciate this paper to go along with your phenotypic plasticity references:

    How Predictable Is Evolution? – Feb. 19, 2013
    “In all three populations it seems to be more or less the same core set of genes that are causing the two phenotypes that we see,” Herron said. “In a few cases, it’s even the exact same genetic change.”,,,
    “There are about 4.5 million nucleotides in the E. coli genome,” he said. “Finding in four cases that the exact same change had happened independently in different populations was intriguing.”

  5. 5
    timothya says:

    Lovable shrubbery for rent on the Nullarbor Plain (20 million years of biodiversity in action):

  6. 6
    bornagain77 says:

    Of related interest Dr. Tyler:

    Thank God for Flowers – Hugh Ross – August 2010
    Excerpt: Paleontologist Kevin Boyce and climate modeler Jung-Eun Lee,,, recently discovered that flowering plants contribute much more than romance and beauty to humanity’s wellbeing. They uncovered evidence suggesting that without flowering plants, human civilization would not even be possible. Boyce and Lee found that a world without angiosperms (flowering plants) would not only be drab and uninspiring but would also be much drier and hotter and lacking in species diversity. The researchers noted that angiosperms transpire water to the atmosphere about four times more efficiently than other species of plants.

    Plants may be able to ‘hear’ others – June 2012
    Excerpt: Plants are known to have many of the senses we do: they can sense changes in light level, “smell” chemicals in the air and “taste” them in the soil (New Scientist, 26 September 1998, p 24). They even have a sense of touch that detects buffeting from strong winds.,,,

    This following paper just came out recently

    Bumblebees Find and Distinguish Electric Signals from Flowers – Feb. 21, 2013
    Excerpt: The research shows for the first time that pollinators such as bumblebees are able to find and distinguish electric signals given out by flowers. Flowers often produce bright colours, patterns and enticing fragrances to attract their pollinators.,,
    ,, flowers also have their equivalent of a neon sign — patterns of electrical signals that can communicate information to the insect pollinator. These electrical signals can work in concert with the flower’s other attractive signals and enhance floral advertising power.
    Plants are usually charged negatively and emit weak electric fields. On their side, bees acquire a positive charge as they fly through the air. No spark is produced as a charged bee approaches a charged flower, but a small electric force builds up that can potentially convey information.
    By placing electrodes in the stems of petunias, the researchers showed that when a bee lands, the flower’s potential changes and remains so for several minutes. Could this be a way by which flowers tell bees another bee has recently been visiting? To their surprise, the researchers discovered that bumblebees can detect and distinguish between different floral electric fields.
    Also, the researchers found that when bees were given a learning test, they were faster at learning the difference between two colours when electric signals were also available.

    As to the interdependence of the ecosystem highlighted in the paper you referenced,

    Higher levels of multiple ecosystem services are found in forests with more tree species
    Excerpt: across a scale of 400,000?km2, we report,,, biomass production was approximately 50% greater with five than with one tree species. In addition, we show positive relationships between tree species richness and proxies for other biodiversity components. Importantly, no single tree species was able to promote all services, and some services were negatively correlated to each other. Management of production forests will therefore benefit from considering multiple tree species to sustain the full range of benefits that the society obtains from forests.

    I think that the essential interdependence (though stunning in the paper,, a 50% improvement!) is perhaps best illustrated (and more problematic for Darwinists) at the foundational level of the ecosystem here:

    These following sites have illustrations that shows some of the interdependent, ‘life-enabling’, biogeochemical complexity of different types of bacterial life on Earth.,,,

    Biologically mediated cycles for hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, sulfur, and iron – image of interdependent ‘biogeochemical’ web

    Microbial Mat Ecology – Image on page 92 (third page down)

    ,,,Please note, that if even one type of bacteria group did not exist in this complex cycle of biogeochemical interdependence, that was illustrated on the third page of the preceding site, then all of the different bacteria would soon die out. This essential biogeochemical interdependence, of the most primitive different types of bacteria that we have evidence of on ancient earth, makes the origin of life ‘problem’ for neo-Darwinists that much worse. For now not only do neo-Darwinists have to explain how the ‘miracle of life’ happened once with the origin of photosynthetic bacteria, but they must now also explain how all these different types bacteria, that photosynthetic bacteria are dependent on, in this irreducibly complex biogeochemical web, miraculously arose just in time to supply the necessary nutrients, in their biogeochemical link in the chain, for photosynthetic bacteria to continue to survive. As well, though not clearly illustrated in the illustration on the preceding site, please note that a long term tectonic cycle, of the turnover the Earth’s crustal rocks, must also be fine-tuned to a certain degree with the bacteria and thus plays a important ‘foundational’ role in the overall ecology of the biogeochemical system that must be accounted for as well.

    As a side issue to these complex interdependent biogeochemical relationships, of the ‘simplest’ bacteria on Earth, that provide the foundation for a ‘friendly’ environment on Earth that is hospitable to higher lifeforms above them to eventually appear on earth, it is interesting to note man’s almost comical failure to build a miniature, self-enclosed, ecology in which humans could live for any extended periods of time.

    Biosphere 2 – What Went Wrong?
    Excerpt: Other Problems
    Biosphere II’s water systems became polluted with too many nutrients. The crew had to clean their water by running it over mats of algae, which they later dried and stored.
    Also, as a symptom of further atmospheric imbalances, the level of dinitrogen oxide became dangerously high. At these levels, there was a risk of brain damage due to a reduction in the synthesis of vitamin B12.

  7. 7
    bornagain77 says:

    Of note: Professor Stein states in the following video at the 4:47 minute mark;

    “We are dealing with plants that are ‘impossibly old’, 387 million years old!”

    World’s Oldest Fossilized Forest Unearthed in NY – video

    Earliest fossil forests were complex – David Tyler – March 2012
    Excerpt: The most significant element of this complexity is the “bifacial vascular cambium” that is found in so-called ‘modern’ trees today. The term refers to the way the central cambium divides to give off water conducting wood towards the inside and food conducting wood towards the outside (the inner layers of the bark). Although Aneurophylates are already known from other Devonian deposits, this is the time they have been shown to have secondary wood typical of both hardwood and softwood trees. Therefore two important features of ‘modern’ trees – bifacial cambium and secondary thickening – were present in the Devonian Period.

  8. 8
    David Tyler says:

    timothya @ 1: “What design criterion do you propose that we should use to decide whether a countryside is lovable?”
    This is not the point I am making. In my experience, and also I think in the experience of many others, people who have a serious appreciation (i.e. they “love the countryside”) for the world around us not only respond positively to a high species diversity, but also they think that high diversities are associated with more robust ecosystems.

    I developed an argument that the science is now catching up with this tacit knowledge, and gave two the examples of two recent papers to support this. I do not think there is anything controversial about this approach.
    Where I have sought to challenge conventional thinging is in discussing the concept of “diversity by design”. This is, in my view, the approach that should be taken by design-orientated scientists. I have suggested we revisit the arguments of Darwin in the “Origin” where he presents variation and diversity as an alternative to “fixity”. This seriously misrepresents scholars who were not pursuing an evolutionary perspective on life. Unfortunately, Darwin’s framing of the issues has subsequently adversely affected generations of biologists. It is time to move on and start interacting with each other, rather than firing pot-shots that do not achieve anything.

  9. 9
    timothya says:

    David Tyler posted this:

    In my experience, and also I think in the experience of many others, people who have a serious appreciation (i.e. they “love the countryside”) for the world around us not only respond positively to a high species diversity, but also they think that high diversities are associated with more robust ecosystems.

    Please understand that the ecosystem in the picture I posted above extends for a thousand kilometres west to east and 500 kilometres north to south. Please stop a second and put yourself in the position of the aboriginal people who live(d) in that landscape.

    Do you seriously believe their aesthetic appreciation of their surroundings was based on the biodiversity of their surroundings? Do you seriously believe that they loved saltbush because there were seven species of saltbush thereabouts?

    There are good reasons not to anthropomorphise nature. Capability Brown made a living in your part of the world by constructing anthropomorphised landscapes. I think you are doing the same.

  10. 10
    bornagain77 says:

    OT: “The impossibility of conceiving that this grand and wondrous universe, with our conscious selves, arose through chance, seems to me the chief argument for the existence of God.”
    Charles Darwin to Doedes, N. D. – Letter – 2 Apr 1873

    “Nothing in evolution can account for the soul of man. The difference between man and the other animals is unbridgeable. Mathematics is alone sufficient to prove in man the possession of a faculty unexistent in other creatures. Then you have music and the artistic faculty. No, the soul was a separate creation.” –
    Alfred Russell Wallace, New Thoughts on Evolution, Co-Discoverer of Natural Selection – 1910

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