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Charles Darwin's Best-Kept Secret

samzenpus posted more than 4 years ago | from the garden-of-darwin dept.

Science 254

beschra writes "BBC writes of 'terra-forming' Ascension Island, one of the islands Charles Darwin visited. He and a friend encouraged the Royal Navy to import boatloads of trees and plants in an attempt to capture the little bit of water that fell on the island. They were quite successful. The island even has a cloud forest now. From the article: '[British ecologist] Wilkinson thinks that the principles that emerge from that experiment could be used to transform future colonies on Mars. In other words, rather than trying to improve an environment by force, the best approach might be to work with life to help it "find its own way."'"

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woot first (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33445788)

first post

Re:woot first (0, Offtopic)

greg_barton (5551) | more than 4 years ago | (#33445802)

I plant a tree on your first post, sirrah!

Re:woot first (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33445862)

woot you're a fucking homo.

Interesting tool (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33445826)

Of course everyone knows about his Darwin's biggie, but I am continually amazed with the little-known ideas that Darwin came up with. Going forward, I hope that we can follow his example in carefully and cleverly preserving Mother Earth for future generations.

Re:Interesting tool (2, Interesting)

garyisabusyguy (732330) | more than 4 years ago | (#33445856)

Turning a desert island into a cloud forest is hardly preserving anything...

I am not terribly bothered by the idea of 'improving' Mother Earth, will anybody have a problem with 'improving' Mars?

Re:Interesting tool (2, Insightful)

BradleyUffner (103496) | more than 4 years ago | (#33445912)

Turning a desert island into a cloud forest is hardly preserving anything...

I am not terribly bothered by the idea of 'improving' Mother Earth, will anybody have a problem with 'improving' Mars?

I don't know if you have ever read Red Mars, and the other books in this series, but it gets in to this question (among MANY others) rather seriously. An entire splinter group of people dedicated to preserving Mars in its cold lifeless state. It's a great set of books that deals with many psychological, and logistical terraforming questions.

Re:Interesting tool (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33445952)

An entire splinter group of people dedicated to preserving Mars in its cold lifeless state.

That's like trying to preserve death. Why would you want too?

Re:Interesting tool (4, Interesting)

BradleyUffner (103496) | more than 4 years ago | (#33446038)

I had a hard time relating to that group in the book also. But I think it came down to how you see beauty. Something like the grand canyon, without any plant or animal life at all, is worthy of being preserved. The geography of Mars dwarfed anything seen in the Grand Canyon many times over, at a planetary scale. The splinter group felt that it was it's duty to preserve that geography so that people could better understand the solar system as a whole. At least that's the what I got from it. Red Mars really is a great series of books, it's worth the read.

Re:Interesting tool (3, Insightful)

Vertigo Acid (1164963) | more than 4 years ago | (#33446926)

If you think that the Grand Canyon, or any desert region really, is without any plant or animal life at all, you're not paying attention

Re:Interesting tool (1)

tsm_sf (545316) | more than 4 years ago | (#33447024)

If I remember correctly the group felt a strong connection to the planet, not unlike Earth First [wikipedia.org] does for the Earth. In fact they might have been modeled on that organization.

Re:Interesting tool (5, Informative)

Xest (935314) | more than 4 years ago | (#33447042)

"Something like the grand canyon, without any plant or animal life at all, is worthy of being preserved."

Well it depends, for those lazy people who just pay for a helicopter tour over the top maybe, but as someone whose walked down it, some of the greatest memories I have are not simply the canyon itself, but witnessing life managing to thrive there. For example, having to stop for a family of deer to cross our path as the stag stood guarding the path, catching a magnificent picture of a Raven perched on a rock mid-squawk with a good shot of the canyon in the background, seeing the beautiful purple hue on some Opuntia species and their blooms, turning around on the way back up to see sheep with the biggest horns I've ever seen staring at me from the cliff side.

Sure the likes of the Grand Canyon may look impressive without life, but it's far better with.

Re:Interesting tool (4, Interesting)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#33446106)

A year or so ago I came across an article about some protesters who opposed creating garbage dumps in Nevada. They said, "sure, there's nothing here, but how many places are there with nothing??" Apparently not enough.

Re:Interesting tool (1)

Professr3 (670356) | more than 4 years ago | (#33446188)

You've obviously never been in a Hot Topic, have you?

Re:Interesting tool (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33446536)

Why would I want what too?

Re:Interesting tool (1)

dangitman (862676) | more than 4 years ago | (#33446820)

Why would you want to create new life where there is none? That's just dooming countless lives to suffering and eventual death.

don't foget the Ganymede rock lobster (1)

garyisabusyguy (732330) | more than 4 years ago | (#33446026)

but (semi) seriously, this guy thinks he found something like a lichen on mars

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6969396/ [msn.com]

would terra-forming Mars potentially wipe out an indigenous species, and would Earthers that were desperate enough for another place to live even care?

Re:don't foget the Ganymede rock lobster (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33446322)

Have you ever heard about Darwin?

If we ever plan to visit Mars, at all, then it is going to be contaminated sooner or later. What happens then is up to the natural forces to resolve and there is not much we can do about it. (Well, we could decide to stay away from Mars, forever.)

Re:don't foget the Ganymede rock lobster (3, Insightful)

bytesex (112972) | more than 4 years ago | (#33446510)

In that case, it's probably already contaminated. I doubt that Russian tech of the seventies, or US tech of the nineties for that matter, could render a huge object 100% sterile.

Re:don't foget the Ganymede rock lobster (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33446534)

yeah, imagine all those nasty spacebugs!

Re:don't foget the Ganymede rock lobster (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33446600)

But I bet a months-long drift through hard vacuum and unimpeded solar & cosmic radiation might have done a fair job, for most of the ship anyway.

Something with a sealed-in living environment for humans has a much greater proportion of microbe etc. habitat, as well as being much bigger overall.

Re:Interesting tool (2, Interesting)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 4 years ago | (#33446070)

I think the bigger worry would be what "sprung up" if we actually started turning that "cold dead" world into a green oasis. After all we have seen there are microorganisms that can live for who knows how long in a dessicated state, so how do we know that there aren't bugs that would make the black plague look like a summer cold buried in those rocks?

I think the first colonists better be prepared for a one way trip, as it would probably be too dangerous for someone who has lived on Martian soil and food grown there to interact with us Earthlings, at least without some serious isolation and a buttload of testing.

Re:Interesting tool (1)

orkysoft (93727) | more than 4 years ago | (#33446250)

Yeah, and they should also halt all archaeological digs. Who knows what they'll find one day? Ancient Mesopotamian weapons of mass destruction!

Oh, wait, they've already been looking for those ;-)

Disease doesn't work that way. (3, Insightful)

Gorimek (61128) | more than 4 years ago | (#33446272)

Think about it.

Why would a martian microbe be specialized in feeding off Earth mammals? How would evolution end up there?

Re:Disease doesn't work that way. (2, Interesting)

Reziac (43301) | more than 4 years ago | (#33446342)

What if it shared DNA with Earth critters, for whatever reason?

What if it was an unspecialized parasite? What if all it needed was a carbon or nitrogen source?

I think it's all unlikely in the extreme, but still not something we should entirely ignore.

Re:Disease doesn't work that way. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33447020)

Well, spontaneous vaporization and a million other possible things are also unlikely in the extreme. I think that we should ignore it completly. If we only focus on possible problems instead of actual problems we will get nowhere.

I think it is safe to postpone such worries until we are in a position to bring stuff here from Mars or when we have got to a position where we actually intend to send people to Mars.

Re:Interesting tool (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33446360)

There's a billion planets in our galaxy alone.

Only one besides earth is conveniently close and possibly capable of supporting human life.

You and almost everyone else on the planet will stop pretending to care when overpopulation threatens to starve you to death.

Re:Interesting tool (4, Insightful)

someone1234 (830754) | more than 4 years ago | (#33446980)

If there were 10 livable planets in our reach, i would support keeping Mars intact.
But we have only one Earth, and a half-assed Mars, that, with some adjustments could be made somewhat livable.
A single 100km asteroid can destroy earth, but it is unlikely to destroy both Mars and Earth.
So, i think it is humanity's best interest to colonise Mars as soon as possible (within 100 years).

Re:Interesting tool (4, Insightful)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 4 years ago | (#33446092)

Having Mars as a pristine monument to the universe's beauty would be nice.

Ultimately, though, it may easily mean giving up many trillions of dollars' worth of economic activity annually - trillions of dollars of the things people need or value - for tens of thousands of years on end, and that's a pretty steep price to pay for a monument. We have a 30,000 light-year monument to the universe's beauty called the "Milky Way" of which humans have affected approximately 0.000%. What makes Mars special? Is it that people can enjoy it more? Trillions of dollars' worth of enjoyment and moral satisfaction at its unblemished state every year? That's a hell of a trade-off.

(Unless you're pushing a sort of conscientious asceticism spirituality agenda or what-not, which is all well and good, but I don't think you get to speak for the rest of Humanity to make that decision, even if they are a bunch of vapid hedonists).

Re:Interesting tool (1)

garyisabusyguy (732330) | more than 4 years ago | (#33446178)

You must be talking about the eastern hemisphere, the Wongs own the western hemisphere, it's the best one.

Only trillions?

Sure, there may be a substantial fortune to earn on Mars. but you have to reach an extremely high 'activation' energy, through extreme overcrowding, etc... to get enough humans off of their lardy asses to put out the effort to get there first

Re:Interesting tool (1)

Professr3 (670356) | more than 4 years ago | (#33446194)

I'd rather have someplace outside our solar system be a pristine monument. Maybe somewhere in the horsehead nebula.

Re:Interesting tool (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33446806)

I propose we call the monument "Fajita Horsehead"

Re:Interesting tool (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33446374)

Ultimately, though, it may easily mean giving up many trillions of dollars' worth of economic activity annually - trillions of dollars of the things people need or value - for tens of thousands of years on end, and that's a pretty steep price to pay for a monument.

As it turns out, the monument is actually a giant reactor made from trillions of dollars of turbidium.

ok... (4, Interesting)

garyisabusyguy (732330) | more than 4 years ago | (#33445834)

let's spray the bugger with lichen, they seem to survive everywhere

http://library.thinkquest.org/26442/html/life/plant.html [thinkquest.org]

Re:ok... (5, Interesting)

Sir_Lewk (967686) | more than 4 years ago | (#33445986)

You were modded funny, but it is not particularly hard to imagine a specially engineered lichen growing in the northern hemisphere of Mars. It could go dormant during the winter, and briefly grow during the summer when the sun begins to melt the (mostly CO2) icecap creating strong southward winds.

Scientists discover new extremophiles every year, the more we learn the more we discover the window that life can survive in is larger than we originally thought.

Re:ok... (2, Interesting)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 4 years ago | (#33446032)

On a tangentially related note, I hear that peas are one of the prime candidates for farming on the Moon (which has month-long day/night cycles and plenty of cold).

Re:ok... (1)

buchner.johannes (1139593) | more than 4 years ago | (#33446066)

You were modded funny, but it is not particularly hard to imagine a specially engineered lichen growing in the northern hemisphere of Mars. It could go dormant during the winter, and briefly grow during the summer when the sun begins to melt the (mostly CO2) icecap creating strong southward winds.

Scientists discover new extremophiles every year, the more we learn the more we discover the window that life can survive in is larger than we originally thought.

Oh lets just throw everything on it and see what sticks.

Re:ok... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33446358)

I don't know if you tried to be funny or not but I think that this is a pretty good idea.

Nature has a way of working around problems that sometimes could be hard for humans to predict.

Re:ok... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33446550)

Kinda reminds me of the Nights Dawn Trilogy by Peter F Hamilton where after global climate change the only thing that grows and survives is a moss like grass.

Re:ok... (2, Informative)

Xest (935314) | more than 4 years ago | (#33446934)

How about Guanacos too.

When I was in Chile, up high in the Andes crossing into Argentina, there were two living things up there; Lichen, and Guanacos. Even the drought tolerant and hardy cacti weren't alive at that altitude in such a barren area, nor was there grass or any such thing.

Lichen sure, but I still to this day have no idea how the fuck the Guanacos survived up there!

Re:ok... (1)

tubs (143128) | more than 4 years ago | (#33447028)

Do they eat lichen?

Re:ok... (1)

Xest (935314) | more than 4 years ago | (#33447060)

I just Google'd it and apparently they do amongst other things, but as that's all there was at that altitude, presumably some groups of the species live purely off that, unless seeing them there was just part of a migratory route and they only live off Lichen for shorter periods whilst they're up there. To be able to live off lichen and nothing else for any period of time beyond a few days, let alone weeks, possibly months, is in itself absolutely incredible.

Mars? (3, Insightful)

drumcat (1659893) | more than 4 years ago | (#33445890)

We can't even terraform Earth right. What makes anyone believe that an oxygen-less place like Mars is going to just suddenly sprout weeds? Unless you can turn rust into Miracle-Gro, you're pretty borked.

Re:Mars? (0, Offtopic)

LiENUS (207736) | more than 4 years ago | (#33445914)

oxygen-less is pretty easy... mars is Atmosphere-less

Re:Mars? (3, Insightful)

Sir_Lewk (967686) | more than 4 years ago | (#33445958)

Why of course! That explains all the severe weather there! Wait, that's not how weather works at all... Mars most certainly has an atmosphere, and it is quite active. It just doesn't have a particularly dense atmosphere.

Re:Mars? (4, Informative)

LiENUS (207736) | more than 4 years ago | (#33445982)

Mars has a serious problem in that any time any reasonable level of gases begin to accumulate. You know approaching the levels we might need to terraform it. The sun strips it all away.

Re:Mars? (3, Insightful)

Sir_Lewk (967686) | more than 4 years ago | (#33446050)

The lack of a magnetosphere will always present an issue for human life, but it wouldn't prevent life in general from getting a foothold. You wouldn't want to terraform the entirety of Mars to human standards anyways, it'd take far too long. More realistically you'd get some sort of 'crop' going to over time convert the soil into something usable and in the meantime set up sealed colonies. Far easier to terraform a geodesic dome or a martian cave than an entire planet.

Re:Mars? (3, Interesting)

dargaud (518470) | more than 4 years ago | (#33446584)

The lack of a magnetosphere will always present an issue for human life

I could probably run the computation, but I don't feel like it right now, so, would it be possible to create a magnetosphere by laying down a (supraconducting) cable along the equator and running a current through it ? Or more simply two shorter cables circling the poles ?

Re:Mars? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33447054)

Yes you could!

And the problem is not the electricity that has to flow to build up the magnetic field (building the magnetic field takes energy, but given enough time, it can be done.) The real problem is the solar wind itself. As it tries to strip away the atmosphere, it pushes against the magnetic field. This costs energy and therefore a minimum power output to the superconducting cables.

I didn't do any calculations for this effect, but prepare to build a few BIG nuclear power plants.

Re:Mars? (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | more than 4 years ago | (#33446114)

But is that not the exact same problem that had with water on that island, that is the point of the plants.
not that it would work, I am not convinced that anything on earth has a chance to adapt that to mars quickly enough to survive, at least nothing that would have a chance to do any good.

not that life that would help could not exist.

Re:Mars? (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 4 years ago | (#33446622)

But is that not the exact same problem that had with water on that island, that is the point of the plants.

So you propose to plant trees at the upper edge of the atmosphere to prevent it from being blown away? :-)

Re:Mars? (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 4 years ago | (#33446020)

From what I understand, solar wind eroded its atmosphere out into space over time. I have a few questions.

1. If possible once replenished, how dense can an atmosphere get on Mars?

2. Is there any photosynthetic life that could survive on Mars being so cold and the atmosphere so thin? It's like, what, 1% of Earth's at ground level?

Re:Mars? (1)

Sir_Lewk (967686) | more than 4 years ago | (#33446098)

It's like, what, 1% of Earth's at ground level?

Something closer to half a percent on average as I recall. ;)

Re:Mars? (1)

bytesex (112972) | more than 4 years ago | (#33446942)

The point is more: given some technology or other, is the atmosphere replenish-able faster than the solar wind blows it away ? My guess is that yes, it is.

funny (3, Informative)

garyisabusyguy (732330) | more than 4 years ago | (#33446212)

Here is the breakdown of the Martian atmosphere:

carbon dioxide 95.32%
nitrogen 2.7%
argon 1.6%
oxygen 0.13%
carbon monoxide 0.07%
water vapor 0.03%
neon, krypton, xenon, ozone, methane trace
The average surface pressure is only about 7 millibars (less than 1% of the Earth's)
http://www.daviddarling.info/encyclopedia/M/Marsatmos.html [daviddarling.info]

So, Mars does have an atmosphere, but is it usable to Earth life?
You would need s source of nitrogen, lotsa miracle gro would be handy

Re:funny (1)

Have Brain Will Rent (1031664) | more than 4 years ago | (#33446304)

"nitrogen 2.7%" [portion of the Martian atmosphere] ... that seems like a lot of nitrogen if you could extract it from the atmosphere... I guess it depends on how much surface you intend to cover with plants. Even 1% of the surface would be a pretty big dome/colony so you could conceivably get more than enough nitrogen out of the planet's atmosphere.

Re:funny (1)

garyisabusyguy (732330) | more than 4 years ago | (#33446418)

Earth atmosphere is about 78% nitrogen, it would take a pretty aggressive nitrogen fixing strategy to grab about 1/3000's as much nitrogen as is available on Earth

Personally, I would not want to be standing around any 'being' that would be likely to strip all of the nitrogen from my protein laden body

Re:funny (1)

Have Brain Will Rent (1031664) | more than 4 years ago | (#33446556)

To be able to fix the atmospheric nitrogen it wouldn't necessarily have to be organic, or if organic not the plant life that the nitrogen was ultimately to be used for. It could, for example, be a bacterium engineered to absorb gaseous nitrogen and excrete a nitrogen compound. And if you are worried about being eaten it could be designed so as to find the human body uninhabitable.

Re:funny (1)

davolfman (1245316) | more than 4 years ago | (#33446334)

That almost sounds like a similar amount of CO2 to Earth atmosphere, with everything else stripped away. With enough nitrogen and enough water that almost sounds to me like you could grow some sort of photosynthetic life. Not that you'd ever have enough oxygen for much animal life.

Re:Mars? (2, Insightful)

Sir_Lewk (967686) | more than 4 years ago | (#33445936)

Well for one thing, plants usually need CO2, not oxygen....

Suddenly sprout weeds? Of course not. With sufficient money and engineering eventually support plant growth? Why not?

Re:Mars? (2, Informative)

Aliotroph (1297659) | more than 4 years ago | (#33446014)

They need both. This gets overlooked a lot, but plant cells, at least in plants they showed us in high-school biology, needed oxygen too. In an ecosystem like we have, perhaps they use a lot of the oxygen they create, but they need some to start with. Perhaps it's best to start with even simpler life.

Where to get the big O? (2, Interesting)

ebcreasoner (1890888) | more than 4 years ago | (#33446226)

Isn't a whole butt load of rust covering the planet? Iron oxide? Iron and oxygen. What now?

Re:Mars? (2, Informative)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#33445998)

Let alone radiation galore because it has no magnetic field.

Re:Mars? (3, Funny)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 4 years ago | (#33446024)

The solution is easy. Just bring a few thousand music CDs [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Mars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33446300)

Whoa, with this method you can also solve the lack of oxygen [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Mars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33446402)

Radiation is more harmful to the individual than to life in general. The higher mutation rate might actually work in you favour.

Re:Mars? (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 4 years ago | (#33446592)

Uhmm, plants don't need oxygen, they make it from CO2.

Re:Mars? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33446688)

Yes they do. They breathe. Even if a plant produces more oxygen than it consumes, that won't help it on Mars because the oxygen would spread evenly in the atmosphere, so it can't be recaptured later.

Re:Mars? (1)

Amanitin (1603983) | more than 4 years ago | (#33446944)

Plants need oxygen, the amount they release obviously cannot cover their needs.
Plants release O2 by water photolysis.

Re:Mars? (1)

stms (1132653) | more than 4 years ago | (#33446830)

We can't even terraform Earth right. What makes anyone believe that an oxygen-less place like Mars is going to just suddenly sprout weeds? Unless you can turn rust into Miracle-Gro, you're pretty borked.

Oxygen-less? Last time I checked the atmosphere of mars Was primarily composed of CO2. In fact it says it on this wiki article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atmosphere_of_Mars#Carbon_dioxide [wikipedia.org] .

Darwin was a fricken Racist (0, Troll)

HockeyGuy (1864828) | more than 4 years ago | (#33445990)

he was no hero he was a psychopathic racist

It's true, he considered Africans to be sub-human. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33446076)

At the time of the voyage, he (without evidence) always implied in his writings that Africans were of the lowest levels of intelligence. I find this laughable because in the lowest levels of poverty in Europe we
all endured the Greek Gods like the Hindu and Norwegian Pantheon gods. Africa has it's Voodoo crafts that are no different in corruptive behaviour.

Re:It's true, he considered Africans to be sub-hum (1)

fotoguzzi (230256) | more than 4 years ago | (#33446298)

I don't know what you are trying to say. I guess you are positing poverty and religion as evidence of the inverse of intelligence? Now I don't know what I'm saying.

yea ok... sure. (2, Interesting)

bakamorgan (1854434) | more than 4 years ago | (#33445994)

Thats not going to happen since mars climate can dip to -100 degrees C (-150 degrees F) late at night, even near the equator. That will kill about anything there is trying to grow.

Re:yea ok... sure. (1)

Lord_of_the_nerf (895604) | more than 4 years ago | (#33446016)

Leave some heaters on. Nature will find a way [wikipedia.org]

In an incredibly short time

Through some perverted logic.

Re:yea ok... sure. (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | more than 4 years ago | (#33446130)

Well it would have to be an extremophile.

"Lichens aren’t only frugal and robust, they jug out because of their very low sensibility against frost. Some lichens, in an experiment, survived a bath in liquid nitrogen at minus 195 degrees." (http://library.thinkquest.org/26442/html/life/plant.html)

Re:yea ok... sure. (4, Informative)

Xest (935314) | more than 4 years ago | (#33446966)

This isn't true. Even some species of cacti, for example, those in Canada are hardy down to that temperature. Opuntia humifusa (syn. O. compressa), and Escobaria vivipara have proven hardy down to -120c in the lab. Whilst they wont do much at this temperature, they're examples of more complex plantlife being able to clearly survive it. Cactaceae are also hardly the most adapted to this sort of climate, I'm sure there is plantlife that is even far more adapted to survive such temperatures than these examples.

Nice idea but it won't work (3, Funny)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 4 years ago | (#33446012)

The Royal Navy doesn't have any space ships.

"cloud forest " (1)

mehrotra.akash (1539473) | more than 4 years ago | (#33446036)

"cloud forest " something like "Cloud Computing" of the past??

Re:"cloud forest " (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33446068)

Yes, it was in the last Ender's book.

Humans also made it barren, first (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33446060)

According to this AscensionIsland government press release :
http://www.ascension-island.gov.ac/files/Anogramma%20press%20release_%20With%20images_%20Kew%20changes%2009%20June%202010.pdf

"Goats were released onto Ascension by Portuguese explorers in the 1500s, and ate their way voraciously
through the island’s greenery for 350 years before the flora was even described to science. By this stage, there wasn’t much left, and the introduction of rabbits, sheep, rats and donkeys, together with over 200 species of invasive plants, further squeezed out the island’s original plant inhabitants. With the rediscovery of Anogramma ascensionis the island’s surviving six endemic plant species are now boosted to a magnificent seven."

Yeah right, Mars. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33446088)

We need to study that shit for Earth, because we'll be needing it in the not too distant future.

Not a secret (1)

istartedi (132515) | more than 4 years ago | (#33446090)

They've been planting trees on the edge of the Taklamakan. I read about that years ago, here's a link [wordpress.com] .

As others have pointed out, prior humans may have created the problem, so we are really just repairing the damage.

I don't see how this ties in with terraforming very much, which is taking something that never had life in the first place and establishing it.

Because the volcanic island never had life (2, Informative)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 4 years ago | (#33446890)

The entire point is that with extremely primitive means, they turned a volcanic (read liveless) island into a lush paradise. It proves that the creation of an eco system is something that CAN be managed without waiting for nature to do it very very slowly.

It shows we CAN reverse de-forestation and it shows that man CAN have a large impact.

Of course you need to be able to get your head past "but it is not 100% the same so it must be fail" that capability is what seperates the leaders from the sheep. Guess which group you belong too? Baaah!

Darwin (1)

rootnl (644552) | more than 4 years ago | (#33446128)

1. Send some bacteria to Mars.
2. Wait 100 years.
3. ???
4. Mars Attacks!!

Units (4, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#33446148)

How many boat loads in a fuckton?

Re:Units (4, Funny)

LynnwoodRooster (966895) | more than 4 years ago | (#33446258)

That would be a shit load.

Darwin (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33446210)

'gets' the "Duh" award posthumously..Wii all knew that.

Earth species on Mars (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33446292)

"that experiment could be used to transform future colonies on Mars"

Giant Tortises on Mars, that can't end well.

Create a Rain Forest in 20 Years (4, Interesting)

Slur (61510) | more than 4 years ago | (#33446354)

Here's a video about how a rainforest was created in only 20 years, altering weather and creating a habitat for abundant life. This could be done all over the world to mediate the effects of Human activity.

http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/willie_smits_restores_a_rainforest.html [ted.com]

Re:Create a Rain Forest in 20 Years (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33446426)

mod parent up. This is the modern version of Ascension Island - the "secret" in question

Umm lack of a magnetosphere anyone (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33446414)

Umm Have they forgotton, Mars has no Magnetic Field!! practically useless for humans since any new atmosphere we create through greenhouse effect will be blown away by solar winds, plus we will be in more danger from Cosmic Rays and Solar flares without a Magnetic field

"They were quite successful."???? (1)

ibsteve2u (1184603) | more than 4 years ago | (#33446484)

How they figure that? I didn't see a Wal*Mart in the pictures!

Re:"They were quite successful."???? (2, Funny)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 4 years ago | (#33446668)

How they figure that?

Well, you answered it yourself:

I didn't see a Wal*Mart in the pictures!

That's clearly success!

Life finds a way? (1)

bhcompy (1877290) | more than 4 years ago | (#33446578)

Dr Ian Malcolm approves!

Darwin also... (3, Interesting)

drkim (1559875) | more than 4 years ago | (#33446708)

Darwin was also a genius in many other ways...

Many years before the fossil and DNA discoveries that might have helped him, he conjectured that human life evolved on the continent of Africa and spread outward.

This is not new, it's called 'Permaculture' (2, Interesting)

qwerty8ytrewq (1726472) | more than 4 years ago | (#33446710)

And the first recorded modern practice of permaculture as a systematic method was by Austrian farmer Sepp Holzer in the 1960s.
Permaculture [wikipedia.org] Essentially one designs systems that run using existing natural ecologies using paths of least resistance and capturing energy/matter.
Interestingly enough natural agriculture systems designed using these principle have no theoretical maximum yield.

Mars? Doable (1)

WinstonWolfIT (1550079) | more than 4 years ago | (#33446748)

Pair of rabbits, pair of foxes, pair of mongooses, some star thistle for good measure. It'll be a choked out hell instead of a barren hell.

Mars can't be terraformed. (2, Informative)

beta.services (1396063) | more than 4 years ago | (#33446814)

At least not at a planatary scale. It's core is near frozen solid. Leaving it's magnetosphere too weak to protect the planet from solar wind. So, unless they plan to reignight it's core, better start looking at Venus as a new home.

ridge != volcanoes (2, Informative)

piotru (124109) | more than 4 years ago | (#33447032)

From the BBC article:
"Its existence depends entirely on what geologists call the mid-Atlantic ridge. This is a chain of underwater volcanoes formed as the ocean is wrenched apart."
I beg to differ. mid-Atlantic ridge forms above the spreading zone, and is by no means a chain of volcanoes.

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