Limiting Factors

We have shown that the most important requirement for life of a cell or of an organism or of an ecosystem is to maintain a balance among all the conditions necessary for life, most of which involve energy, materials and communication.

We have shown that the behaviors of the different species of organisms are responsible for distributing energy throughout the whole ecosystem.

We have shown that the behaviors of the different species of organisms are responsible for distribution the materials of life, atoms and molecules, throughout the ecosystem.

We have shown that the behaviors of the different species are responsible for the ability of the ecosystem to react to conditions inside and outside that might be a threat to her life.

We have said that the more species an ecosystem is supporting, the more balanced and resilient that ecosystem is, because every different species has a slightly different behavior. So any little problems that happen with one or another species will have only a minor impact on the balance of the ecosystem. Other species will be able to do the same job in a slightly different way, and the more such species are available the more likely the ecosystem is to survive.

Now let’s talk about how the ecosystem protects herself in the case of some species over-running the ecosystem, like a cancer over-runs an individual organism, and so threatening the lives of the other species hat are required for balance and resilience and life of the ecosystem. For the most part, this function is performed day by day and year by year by limiting factors that are a part of the balance of the whole.

Let’s take for example a species that lives in the desert. The usual limiting factor in a desert is water. If there are too many individuals, then the whole community is likely to run short of water, and most of the individuals will die. So then there are not too many. Those that remain are the individuals who are best able to live without water, and these will pass on their genomes to the next generation. The result is that deserts are filled with organisms that have evolved intricate adaptations to the desert climate.

Water is the limiting factor in this environment that drives both balanced populations and evolution.

Suppose for one year there is more than enough water, then the population of desert mice, for example, will bloom, and the mice will begin to eat up all their food supply, until it is gone, and many will starve. In that year, food is the limiting factor.

If food is not limiting, then predators are likely to take the surplus mice in the next following breeding season. After a bloom of mice, there is likely to be a bloom of foxes, as the ecosystem uses her innate behaviors to maintain the balance that is necessary for her life.

If this fails, then the overcrowded conditions of the mice is likely to provide excellent conditions for the evolution of viral or bacterial diseases.

Notice that these limiting factors are not enemies of our species or of the ecosystem. They create the perfect conditions for any species to survive over long periods of time in an earthly ecosystem. If we really do want to survive, then we will need to understand limiting factors as friends and allies, and manage them accordingly.

The next limiting factor, if a species manages to work its way past all the previous, will be that the population becomes so large and begins to use so much energy that the waste products begin to threaten the balance between the source of energy (plants) and the using up of energy (food) until the waste products begin to affect the environment (as in global warming).

Experiments have been done, using rats or mice that are provided with all the food and water they could possibly need. When populations become so great that they are crawling all over each other, then their behaviors become “nutsy:” infanticide, murder and war increase.

At this point, the species is probably doomed to extinction by destruction of all the things it needs to stay alive.

The only difference between us and the other species is that we understand what we are doing to God’s Garden of Eden — or we can understand if we want to, because the information is available. And because of our brain — we get to choose whether or not we want to continue trashing the ecosystem. If we decide we want to provide a reasonable life style for a reasonable number of humans on the face of this earth, we must begin passing out the birth control to everyone who wants it IMMEDIATELY.

In this way our technology might save some of us.

No human technology can change the basic laws of nature that keep the ecosystem alive. No human technology can remove the limiting factors or safely unbalance the ecosystem.

Our human environment now is the whole earth ecosystem, and we are now using more resources than the ecosystem can consistently produce. I have seen what happens to mice that overpopulate their environments. Those pictures are in my mind as I see the choices we are now making.

But we are the only species in history that has been given the freedom to choose.

We can help to balance the ecosystem — the flow of energy, the recycling of materials and the balance of species.

Or —

Not.

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