The importance of feces

Discussions on the interactions between components of the environment and their effects on all types of organisms.

The importance of feces

Postby BadgerJelly on February 28th, 2017, 10:48 am 

How important is feces to our ecology?

I keep hearing recently about there being a lack of feces and that the effects of this are not being given enough attention. Feces is very important to help maintain food sources at the BOTTOM (huh huh huh!) of the chain.

How serious is the lack of poop in the sea? Should we be slightly concerned, or like the idiom says should we be producing fecal bricks?
User avatar
BadgerJelly
Resident Member
 
Posts: 5606
Joined: 14 Mar 2012


Re: The importance of feces

Postby Forest_Dump on February 28th, 2017, 11:05 am 

I think you need to provide more context on this one. (There is a lack of feces in the sea? Of course, it is all stacking up in Washington.) But seriously folks, I hadn't heard this particular one but I had heard about tons piling up near pig and chicken factories. And I had heard how chemicals fed to cows, etc., were preventing certain types of flies from successfuly laying eggs in the dung which means the dung isn't being decomposed the same way - it is taking longer to dry up and it filters down into the soil as a fine particulate dust, which is okay over a longer period of tme, increasing the humic level in the soil faster but negatively impacting on the food chain that eats the flies, etc. But I presume you mean that crashes in the fish populations is having a different impact in the seas.
User avatar
Forest_Dump
Resident Member
 
Posts: 8723
Joined: 31 Mar 2005
Location: Great Lakes Region


Re: The importance of feces

Postby TheVat on February 28th, 2017, 12:14 pm 

It's too late to save the oceans. What's dung is dung.
User avatar
TheVat
Forum Administrator
 
Posts: 7343
Joined: 21 Jan 2014
Location: Black Hills


Re: The importance of feces

Postby Forest_Dump on February 28th, 2017, 12:25 pm 

So it is a problem that some people are just too full of it. (Okay I feel guilty. I will stop this BS now. Too easy.)
User avatar
Forest_Dump
Resident Member
 
Posts: 8723
Joined: 31 Mar 2005
Location: Great Lakes Region


Re: The importance of feces

Postby zetreque on February 28th, 2017, 12:51 pm 

Forest_Dump is right. The topic could use some more specifics.

I've read several papers about how important wildlife feces is to ecology. Especially around salmon habitats.
Here is one I remember having something about it.

Fish as Fertilizer
http://sciencecases.lib.buffalo.edu/cs/ ... forest.pdf
Toward the bottom
Bears consume large quantities of salmon during spawning runs. Some of the nutrients from the consumed
salmon, especially nitrogen, will be excreted a short time later in wastes (urine and feces). This is study
examined the effects of bears on the redistribution of salmon-derived nitrogen into the riparian forest.


Also right is the negative effect of feces. Humans eat such garbage, and they feed such garbage to livestock and their pets, that anything to do with human, dog, or livestock feces can potentially have extremely negative effects. If you are ever camping, you should always ____ at least 100 feet away from ponds, lakes or rivers and bury it as far down as you can. While there is no doubt the damage it can do to water way ecosystems, there is debate about the longevity of toxins such as medications and antibiotics that biodecompose (can't remember the right terminology at the moment).
User avatar
zetreque
Forum Moderator
 
Posts: 3798
Joined: 30 Dec 2007
Location: Paradise being lost to humanity
Blog: View Blog (3)


Re: The importance of feces

Postby zetreque on February 28th, 2017, 12:54 pm 

The Salmon Forest Project
http://web.uvic.ca/~reimlab/salmonforest.html

"One of the results to emerge from our studies has been the detection of salmon signatures in the yearly growth rings of ancient trees."
User avatar
zetreque
Forum Moderator
 
Posts: 3798
Joined: 30 Dec 2007
Location: Paradise being lost to humanity
Blog: View Blog (3)


Re: The importance of feces

Postby zetreque on February 28th, 2017, 1:08 pm 

I almost forgot that I did a school project on this a while back.

This was from a study done in the Amazon rainforest.
Here is the poster figure I created for it (powerpoint doesn't do very pretty arrows so I ended up with spaghetti).
Trophic-Cascades.jpg
User avatar
zetreque
Forum Moderator
 
Posts: 3798
Joined: 30 Dec 2007
Location: Paradise being lost to humanity
Blog: View Blog (3)


Re: The importance of feces

Postby Forest_Dump on February 28th, 2017, 1:11 pm 

There are definitely a number of variables to be thought about here. On the one hand a certain amount of feces entering the water, etc., is obviously somewhat of a good thing as that allows nutrients to be used by something. The two problems I am aware of happen when the system gets over-loaded and when other less natural chemicals and drugs get added to the system. As to the latter, I do remember reading how scientists trying to find drug resistant bacteria simply took samples from down stream of chicken farms because so much anti-biotic is fed to chickens that downstream became an ideal selective environment for anti-biotic resistant bacteria.
User avatar
Forest_Dump
Resident Member
 
Posts: 8723
Joined: 31 Mar 2005
Location: Great Lakes Region


Re: The importance of feces

Postby zetreque on February 28th, 2017, 1:15 pm 

Forest_Dump » Tue Feb 28, 2017 9:11 am wrote: On the one hand a certain amount of feces entering the water, etc., is obviously somewhat of a good thing as that allows nutrients to be used by something.


Not if it's a large alpine lake or small pond known for clarity and the species within that lake require the clarity (sunlight to reach the deeper layers of the lake). In those cases you want as little nutrients entering the water as possible as to not upset the ecology.
User avatar
zetreque
Forum Moderator
 
Posts: 3798
Joined: 30 Dec 2007
Location: Paradise being lost to humanity
Blog: View Blog (3)


Re: The importance of feces

Postby Forest_Dump on February 28th, 2017, 1:57 pm 

zetreque wrote:Not if it's a large alpine lake or small pond known for clarity and the species within that lake require the clarity (sunlight to reach the deeper layers of the lake). In those cases you want as little nutrients entering the water as possible as to not upset the ecology.


Fair enough and quite true. I suppose in any watershed, the closest you get to the head waters, it is fair to say that the nutrient load is least and that, as you head down stream and towards the ocean, warmth and nutrient load to varying degrees increases. As it happens I am in the Arctic watershed and, for the most part, water tends to be relatively clean and clear and that differs from the Great Lakes watershed which of course differs from the Mississippi or Amazon.
User avatar
Forest_Dump
Resident Member
 
Posts: 8723
Joined: 31 Mar 2005
Location: Great Lakes Region


Re: The importance of feces

Postby TheVat on February 28th, 2017, 2:07 pm 

That's a problem where rivers empty into seas, too, isn't it? Too much nitrogen from land runoff causes algae blooms that wreak havoc. I think organic farming, using manure, lessens the runoff problem, as the soil better retains any excess of nitrogenous waste.

I had heard the thing about taking a forest dump as far from water as possible. (Now I feel guilty, too. About the wordplay, not about s--ting in the woods)
User avatar
TheVat
Forum Administrator
 
Posts: 7343
Joined: 21 Jan 2014
Location: Black Hills


Re: The importance of feces

Postby Forest_Dump on February 28th, 2017, 2:22 pm 

I can assure you that the topic is definitely one that has and is of some passing (hmmm) importance as I certainly have to take notice of some issues such as where to drink. Elders around here do like to drink from some lakes but I know bear and moose, not to mention fish, are pretty indiscriminate. And "beaver fever" is actually a very scary thing. So some of it has to do with scale of added nutrient load since around these parts the addition of the odd human load isn't going to be much of a problem. But, of course, add one tiny fraction of NYC and everything changes. But still there are obvious problems even "up here". Many FN reserves are and have been under boil water advisories for many years and part of that problem has been because of bad planning and lack of infrastructure investment following national drives to keep these people in one place for administrative purposes and so the land can be used for other things (mineral including fossil fuel extraction, logging, etc.) and people no longer move around as much allowing things to decompose. So a build up of feces, etc., inevitably starts impacting the water in the same locals as drinking and shower water comes from.
User avatar
Forest_Dump
Resident Member
 
Posts: 8723
Joined: 31 Mar 2005
Location: Great Lakes Region


Re: The importance of feces

Postby Forest_Dump on February 28th, 2017, 2:33 pm 

I think one bottom line (jeez can't seem to get away from them can I) is that more context is definitely needed. We all seem to be aware that there appears to be a lot of issues about too much nutrients entering the water system and eventually into the oceans, at least in some places, but the OP seems to imply too little in other places. Of course, having just finished another Darwin biography, with entailed thought, I also want to avoid anthropocentric, etc., biases for at least a day or two so could also note that this might just mean changes, which have happened since the beginning of time, and that either way will just mean some increase in some evolutionary processes. Increased algae blooms might appear bad to some humans and other critters in those places but are probably a good thing for algae. One man's fish is another man's poisson.
User avatar
Forest_Dump
Resident Member
 
Posts: 8723
Joined: 31 Mar 2005
Location: Great Lakes Region


Re: The importance of feces

Postby TheVat on February 28th, 2017, 3:01 pm 

Any more poop puns will result in a painful evacuation of all members.

Okay, seriously, I need to better understand the whole notion of an ecosystem and the difference between a shift in species balance and a more catastrophic disruption (which is what I am taking Zet to be addressing). Algal blooms seem to bring massive species die-offs beneath the obscuring mats of algae, so I figure the sudden influx of too much agricultural runoff falls under catastrophic. Overfishing can also be pretty catastrophic, so I assume the decrease in fecal detritus on the bottom would lead to species loss that might mirror the catastrophe above. What would happen if livestock operations sent their fecal waste to coastal tankers that spread it across the sea? Too blunt force a solution, I'd imagine. And chicken would be $10 a pound. And we'd burn a gigaton of fossil fuels to do that.
User avatar
TheVat
Forum Administrator
 
Posts: 7343
Joined: 21 Jan 2014
Location: Black Hills


Re: The importance of feces

Postby zetreque on February 28th, 2017, 3:06 pm 

Another major problem with feces is aquaculture or fish farming. The ocean or river floor beneath these farms are so loaded with dung that...
User avatar
zetreque
Forum Moderator
 
Posts: 3798
Joined: 30 Dec 2007
Location: Paradise being lost to humanity
Blog: View Blog (3)


Re: The importance of feces

Postby Forest_Dump on February 28th, 2017, 3:43 pm 

I don't mean to be too pedantic but lately I have been reading some various logic-related material and am trying to remind myself how often "science" ends up being merely a tool used to support various political and philosophical agendas from either or any side of the spectrum. Since I don't like it when some do it, I try to remind myself not to do it either. A catastrophic disturption might be bad for me but that doesn't mean science should be invoked to say it is bad - it could be very good for whatever survived and took over.

But still wondering about the OP and killing some time before getting back to writing and dealing with a few thousands little bits of sharp rock broken thousands of years ago...
User avatar
Forest_Dump
Resident Member
 
Posts: 8723
Joined: 31 Mar 2005
Location: Great Lakes Region


Re: The importance of feces

Postby zetreque on February 28th, 2017, 3:50 pm 

Forest_Dump » Tue Feb 28, 2017 11:43 am wrote:I don't mean to be too pedantic but lately I have been reading some various logic-related material and am trying to remind myself how often "science" ends up being merely a tool used to support various political and philosophical agendas from either or any side of the spectrum. Since I don't like it when some do it, I try to remind myself not to do it either. A catastrophic disturption might be bad for me but that doesn't mean science should be invoked to say it is bad - it could be very good for whatever survived and took over.

But still wondering about the OP and killing some time before getting back to writing and dealing with a few thousands little bits of sharp rock broken thousands of years ago...


I'm not sure if this is what you were getting at but:
This gets into ethics and morals. Humans are a disruptive influence on the planet. They can have significant multiple impacts in a short time span that can be hard on life in general. As John Stuart Mill might argue, we want to maximize the good for the many and to do that we would want to maximize the diversity of environments. The natural evolution and change of ecosystems over time still maintains a greater diversity than when we throw fish farms in over here, or a city near this delta, some airplanes up here, a coal mine over there, etc etc.

Take humans out of the equation and there doesn't seem to be ethical or moral dilemmas in nature.
User avatar
zetreque
Forum Moderator
 
Posts: 3798
Joined: 30 Dec 2007
Location: Paradise being lost to humanity
Blog: View Blog (3)


Re: The importance of feces

Postby Forest_Dump on February 28th, 2017, 4:06 pm 

zetreque wrote:Take humans out of the equation and there doesn't seem to be ethical or moral dilemmas in nature.


Indeed but there is still disruptive changes from continents moving about and changing ocean currents, asteroids, slamming into the planet, etc. One period of massive global warming during the Middle Miocene appears to have led to the radiation and diversity of apes which ultimately led to us. What is different about today is the pace of change and, scientifically, the most I can conclude is that the pace of evolutionary change has increased dramatically including extinctions and at least the potential for something else to start evolving to take over. Might take a few tens or hundreds of millions of years but the earth is patient.

Of course, all that being said, personally I am happy living in an area that is relatively wild and seeing lots of birds, mammals of all kinds and fish like pike as big as some small children. But that is my philosophical preference. And I have grown a dislike for big cities (although they are nice to briefly visit for the book stores and restaurants plus browsing university libraries). Also a philosophical preference. Can't see any moral or ethical side to that though - just my preference without saying one is more moral or ethical than the other although clearly they impact each other.
User avatar
Forest_Dump
Resident Member
 
Posts: 8723
Joined: 31 Mar 2005
Location: Great Lakes Region
zetreque liked this post


Re: The importance of feces

Postby zetreque on February 28th, 2017, 4:17 pm 

I agree.
Humans are comparable to other catastrophic disasters.
One thing that scares me a little though is that they are changing the planet in so many different ways and from so many different sides that has never before been witnessed by Earth. Not that I will be around long enough to know what happens though I wish I could.
I spent some time recently learning different ethical arguments and how they evolved over the years. I'm only scratching the surface here but I think the next step in human ethics is realizing that helping others (including wildlife) actually helps ourselves. It's in our own selfish best interest to maximize the good for the many. The definition of many needs to extend beyond humans. What we are doing now is creating a world of suffering for many. The opposite of what is actually shown by evidence to be true. Evidence and science actually backs up the utilitarian philosophy for this concept.

Bringing it back on topic, By not destroying bird habitat in the arctic through oil production and climate change, those birds migrate around the world defecating and fertilizing the landscape. Fertilization is important for our food production. Healthy salmon runs are important for our food production. Bears and birds catch the salmon in survival of the fittest to maintain healthy salmon populations, then they defecate to maintain habitat for themselves to keep the salmon populations in check and this whole ecological web that all supports supplying us with fresh water, fresh air, and healthy food.

Taking the long term time scale out of the picture, we need ethics which I would claim is a selfish motive to help us survive without suffering. Without it, we see a degradation of the environment that supports us and diseases more abundant.
User avatar
zetreque
Forum Moderator
 
Posts: 3798
Joined: 30 Dec 2007
Location: Paradise being lost to humanity
Blog: View Blog (3)


Re: The importance of feces

Postby Forest_Dump on February 28th, 2017, 6:05 pm 

My guess is that Badger went off to work and left this OP hanging. So I hope he doesn't mind I we doodle all over it before he gets back.

So... I have a very active bird feeder station that, at the moment is attracting hundreds of birds that are eating seeds at an astonishing rate. My guess is well over 100 redpolls alone plus lots of purple finches, pine and evening grosbeaks, black capped and boreal chickadees, four kinds of woodpeckers, siskins, nuthatches plus a number of grey jays. Given the OP, should I move the feeders closer to a stream to improve the feces load? I kind of like it where it is since I am shovelling the seed shells and droppings around over the snow thinking it will help compost the sandy "lawn" (not much grass anymore - mostly hawkweed) but that too could change the local environment. Any thoughts?
User avatar
Forest_Dump
Resident Member
 
Posts: 8723
Joined: 31 Mar 2005
Location: Great Lakes Region


Re: The importance of feces

Postby zetreque on February 28th, 2017, 6:33 pm 

If the entire world was as small as your yard around the bird-feeder, it might seem like an apocalyptic catastrophe for some creatures. If we look at it in comparison to the Earth it seems like peanuts.

Just pointing out the obvious here. Seed shells on top of the snow are too cold to compost but they should help the snow melt faster by absorbing radiant energy bringing spring time that much sooner to the worms.

Those are my thoughts :D
User avatar
zetreque
Forum Moderator
 
Posts: 3798
Joined: 30 Dec 2007
Location: Paradise being lost to humanity
Blog: View Blog (3)


Re: The importance of feces

Postby BadgerJelly on March 2nd, 2017, 1:03 am 

I cannot for the life of me find where I first heard this. I am sure it was on an episode of QI.

They said that over the last 100-200 hears (I cannot remember) the amount of feces in the oceans has fallen by an extraordinary amount (again not going to put a figure because I cannot remember. It was a large enough amount for me to be very suprised. Pretty sure over 50%.)

The knock on effect of the food chain is what interested me. I also read elsewhere about this effecting temperature of sea somewhere. As the change has been so significant I thought I'd ask about it here.

The point was focused on how feces has reduced due to killing animals on land and in the sea, plus farming which uses feces trapping them in the land where before they would make there way to the sea. Micro organisms would then feed of feces, so if there is a considerable reduction then there is less food in the sea.

I am guessing they got this info from ice in artic sheets? No idea how they come up with the figure they did.

It certainly sparked my curiosity. Sorry I cannot provide more. It is not number one on things to research list :)
User avatar
BadgerJelly
Resident Member
 
Posts: 5606
Joined: 14 Mar 2012


Re: The importance of feces

Postby zetreque on March 2nd, 2017, 2:21 am 

BadgerJelly » Wed Mar 01, 2017 9:03 pm wrote:I am guessing they got this info from ice in artic sheets? No idea how they come up with the figure they did.


They most likely got it from core samples of the ocean floor.

The salmon fisheries in the east pacific ocean have been decimated due to the past 200 years of damming rivers, gold mining, and various other things done to the rivers and added to them. I would assume that is one of the significant factors adding to loss of nutrients in the ocean.

User avatar
zetreque
Forum Moderator
 
Posts: 3798
Joined: 30 Dec 2007
Location: Paradise being lost to humanity
Blog: View Blog (3)


Re: The importance of feces

Postby BadgerJelly on March 2nd, 2017, 3:52 am 

If nutrients have dropped in the oceans by 50% (I am reasonably sure the figure was more dramatic than 50%!) over the past century I find that to be a startling statistic.

I am guessing the context of the statistics are being misrepresented somewhere. If not I would assume this would be a very hot topic within environmental sciences. By using biowaste to fertilize are we starving the oceans? From.what I remember of hearing this fleeting piece of information was reference to the lowest creatures in the food chain not having enough crap to eat (so to speak).
User avatar
BadgerJelly
Resident Member
 
Posts: 5606
Joined: 14 Mar 2012


Re: The importance of feces

Postby zetreque on March 2nd, 2017, 4:11 am 

BadgerJelly,

I'm having a hard time understanding the problem you are talking about. It sounds like you think there is some problem where we are extracting fish from the ocean but not putting fish back in. Is that what you are getting at?
As I understand it, fisherman will throw back lots of "biowaste" that isn't the species they were targeting.
I'm not so sure that is the real problem.
The real problem is the declining fisheries worldwide. Monterey Bay Aquarium has a lot of great resources on this.
Declining fisheries world wide from over-fishing is an incredibly serious problem. I have some data on it if you want it but it will take me some time to extract it.
Obviously with declining fisheries, there are less fish to defecate.
Perhaps a more serious problem right now however is ocean acidification. Everyone talks about global warming from CO2 but ocean acidification from CO2 is an even more serious problem actually because the oceans supply a HUGE chunk of the worlds food supplies.
User avatar
zetreque
Forum Moderator
 
Posts: 3798
Joined: 30 Dec 2007
Location: Paradise being lost to humanity
Blog: View Blog (3)


Re: The importance of feces

Postby BadgerJelly on March 2nd, 2017, 4:41 am 

I am talking about the waste from land animals. Naturally it would eventually wash into oceans. Now, due to farming and various other factors, it doesn't.

The result I heard is an extemely dramatic drop in the amount of feces found in the oceans today. Like I said, what I heard was a drop of OVER 50% in the last century or two. I am questioning the data and expressing curiosity about how big an effect this would have had on life in the oceans if it is accurate. It seems reasonable for me to think that such a lack may reduce numbers of lower organisms and therefore decrease the over all popultions of various forms of marine life. Also, in combination with humans fishing habits, it seems if lack of feces is a problem we are adding to it by eating everything in the ocean that produces feces too.

I am guessing there is not enough data about this or that there are some speculative theories flying around about some recent studies?
User avatar
BadgerJelly
Resident Member
 
Posts: 5606
Joined: 14 Mar 2012


Re: The importance of feces

Postby zetreque on March 2nd, 2017, 4:46 am 

I'm confused about this decrease in waste from land animals washing out to sea.
What is the proposed idea behind this?
Why would there be that much less waste from land animals?
User avatar
zetreque
Forum Moderator
 
Posts: 3798
Joined: 30 Dec 2007
Location: Paradise being lost to humanity
Blog: View Blog (3)


Re: The importance of feces

Postby BadgerJelly on March 2nd, 2017, 4:56 am 

zetreque » March 2nd, 2017, 4:46 pm wrote:I'm confused about this decrease in waste from land animals washing out to sea.
What is the proposed idea behind this?
Why would there be that much less waste from land animals?


"They" say we process it. I am as puzzled as you, because I imagine this is a big deal for the critters of the sea.

It is not an "idea", as far as I know. "They" say fecal matter has decreased dramatically. How they distinguish between fish poop and land animal poop is one of my many questions about this.

Generally I think they are blaming sewage plants and farming. We kill wild animals that previously shat in the woods without concern, but now we've replaced them with domestic animals we use poop scoops or such things, thus depriving the oceans of nutrient rich "waste" materials?
User avatar
BadgerJelly
Resident Member
 
Posts: 5606
Joined: 14 Mar 2012


Re: The importance of feces

Postby TheVat on March 2nd, 2017, 10:20 am 

We're in a science thread, so rather than alluding to "they," a citation would be helpful.
User avatar
TheVat
Forum Administrator
 
Posts: 7343
Joined: 21 Jan 2014
Location: Black Hills


Re: The importance of feces

Postby BadgerJelly on March 2nd, 2017, 12:59 pm 

Braininvat » March 2nd, 2017, 10:20 pm wrote:We're in a science thread, so rather than alluding to "they," a citation would be helpful.


That was why I posted this thread. I am asking what this data is based on. I have rewatched two episodes of QI trying to find a reference to show I haven't just made this up.

Regardless, out of curiosity I am wondering what effect such a decrease in fecal matter in our oceans would do to global ecology?

Best I can find right now:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phytoplankton
User avatar
BadgerJelly
Resident Member
 
Posts: 5606
Joined: 14 Mar 2012


Next

Return to Environmental Science

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 4 guests