Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Notebook

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Notebook

Article excerpt

Save the Powerhouses?

If widespread global species extinction is changing the course of evolution, should conservationists shift their focus from saving endangered species to saving important "processes and powerhouses" of evolution?

Norman Myers, one of the world's leading authorities on environmental science, posed that question in St. Louis last month in a meeting at the Missouri Botanical Garden and a public lecture at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

"What we do in the next decade could determine the course of evolution for 5 million to 25 million years," Myers said.

At issue is whether tropical deforestation and other forms of environmental destruction are undermining the capacity of animals and plants to adapt to changes in the global environment. Such destruction not only wipes out entire species, it also eliminates all but a relatively few individuals in other species. That shrinks the gene pool - the sum of a species' inheritable traits, including many needed to adapt to a changing environment. This ability to adapt is central to the process of evolution.

The places that act as "the main powerhouses of evolution" - including tropical forests, coral reefs and wetlands - are also among the most threatened natural areas, Myers said. He urged scientists to work to protect these areas.

Despite gloomy reports of accelerated destruction, there's still hope that humans can ease the pace, he said. Among hopeful notes: nations like Thailand have shown an ability to rapidly drop their birth rates and more than 200 organizations dedicated to saving the rain forest have started in the past decade.

"There's still a very great deal to play for," he said.

Myers, a scientist and author, is a visiting fellow at Oxford University and a consultant to the World Bank, United Nations, Smithsonian Institution and other organizations.

- William Allen/Post-Dispatch Cooking Key For Vitamin C

Vegetables rich in vitamin C can help shorten and lessen cold symptoms. …

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