Bob Paine (02:40)
Paine has loved natural history since childhood and asserts that the world is changing. "The Serengeti Rules" author Sean B. Carroll explains that science gives people an opportunity to understand the world; he recalls meeting scientists that change how humans view nature.
Mary Power (03:49)
Power describes being myopic as a child and learning she can see clearly underwater; it determined her life’s direction. Power pioneered underwater ecology in rivers.
John Terborgh (05:29)
Terborgh describes skipping school to watch a Bachman’s warbler. He witnessed his favorite bird watching spots destroyed and developed upon over time. Terborgh moved to Peru in 1963 after discovering Manu National Park’s pristine nature.
Jim Estes (03:41)
Estes describes being tasked with surveying sea otters near Amchitka Island, despite his lack of experience; he found spectacular underwater communities. Kelp is important to ocean species.
Tony Sinclair (04:54)
Sinclair received a Royal Society grant to study Serengeti bird migrations; he witnessed mass migration of several species. Other scientists surveyed large mammal populations and found that wildebeest, buffalo, and elephants were breeding quickly, and they enlisted Sinclair to investigate why.
Discovering Keystone Species (09:26)
Paine brought scientists together with his idea that predators can drive food chains. He found that starfish prevented mussel monocultures from forming in Makah Bay tidepools, resulting in the discovery of keystone species.
Keystone Species: Sea Otters (04:13)
Paine relays his discovery to Estes, encouraging him to think about otters as predators. Estes travels to Shemya Island to find waters without otters and discovers an urchin monoculture decimating kelp forests and dominating the seascape.
Keystone Species: Largemouth Bass (05:32)
Having studied under Paine, Power goes to Oklahoma to observe fish. She finds barren pools interspersed with green pools within rivers. Minnows dominate barren pools, eating all algae and greenery. Largemouth bass kept their numbers down in other pools, allowing for ecosystem diversity.
Predator Driven Ecosystems (04:44)
Terborgh tests the keystone species concept, finding forested islands created by the Caroni River damming; all large predators had disappeared. Leaf Cutter Ants are defoliating forests, resulting in the destruction of the landscape.
Human Interference (08:31)
Estes believed otter numbers stabilized at historical levels by the early 1990s; 99% of the population had disappeared from 50,000 miles of coastline. Humans killing whale populations through the 1960s led to Orcas preying on smaller species and collapsing the ecosystem.
Downgraded Ecosystems (04:01)
Humans have damaged many species, driving several predators to extinction. Over hunting creates a domino effect; ecosystems are destroyed when keystone species populations decline.
Removing Predators (02:34)
Terborgh describes how deer in America have reached plague abundance, impacting ecosystem health and preventing new growth. Current oak trees represent the last of their kind; excessive deer browsing led to the forest’s end.
Keystone Species: Wildebeest (10:27)
Humans have destroyed nature worldwide. Carroll hopes that downgrading can be reversed; Serengeti wildlife regenerated when rid of rinderpest. Sinclair witnessed massive increases in wildebeest populations, finding their migrations beneficial to habitats.
Returning Keystone Species (09:16)
Terborgh created the White Oak Conference, bringing prominent ecologists together. Experts had similar experiences with keystone species and collectively published "Trophic Downgrading of Planet Earth." Reintroducing predators into ecosystems can upgrade them.
Credits: The Serengeti Rules (03:55)
Credits: The Serengeti Rules
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