It is astonishing how fragile environmental activists apparently think the vast and otherwise dynamic and resilient biosphere is, as if all it would take to destroy it is Homer Simpson bumping into it. Or Bullwinkle, apparently. Having lost its sense of the absurd, the Washington Post just bugled “Hungry moose thought to be possible factor in climate change”. Oh really? Yes. See “research suggests that moose may factor into a dramatic reduction in the amount of carbon stored in some forests.” So should we shoot a moose for mother Earth?
First let’s hear the case for the prosecution. Your honour:
“Don’t mess with moose. They’re big, they’re strong… Wherever they feed, the large mammals trample vegetation, affect tree growth and change soil composition with copious amounts of urine and dung. That’s partly due to their voracious appetites – adult moose can eat up to 60 pounds of food per day.”
And it seems when they get loose in your Norway, forests can’t grow back. Though here you thought there was this cycle of life. But no:
“Writing in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences, researchers said they analyzed 11 years of data on moose in Norwegian forest areas that had been cleared for lumber. Usually, the forest rebounds, and saplings and bushes quickly grow back. But when moose are on the loose in these areas, they graze on any and all vegetation, snacking on the saplings that would eventually repopulate those areas of forest and sequester carbon. The moose mostly ate birch, rowan and willow trees.”
Which is why Norway has no trees, and then they are cut down and none grow back. And there goes your planet as well:
“The researchers estimate that by eating up potential carbon sinks, the moose consume the equivalent of 10 percent of the entire Norwegian forestry industry’s annual harvest, cutting carbon storage by up to 60 percent in those areas.”
Mind you nature is dynamic, so:
“moose feeding also affected the reflectivity, or albedo, of the forests. By clearing the trees, the moose enable more light to reach, and bounce off, the forest floor. This cools the forest for years until the canopy recovers, the researchers write.”
So trees heat the planet while absorbing carbon, and moose wipe them out while subsisting on them in forests that aren’t there because of the moose. And if it seems confusing the solution, as so often, is more money for people to say moose eat plants and stuff happens but we’re not really sure what: “The scientists say more research is needed to fully understand moose’s potential effects on climate.”
If you need us to hold your hoof and lead you through it, the problem with this theory is that meese have been big, strong and voracious since the invention of the antler. (They are comparatively recent but the “source moose” Libralces gallicus, dating back about 5 million years, was perhaps a quarter bigger than modern ones, making it a wonder France has trees.) So if they were going to cause climate change by eating the forest, they would have done so by now. In fact, to spoil everything by Googling, animals were generally bigger when it was warmer, throughout the Eocene and Pliocene, because even small amounts of warmth destroy the planet and wipe out charismatic species.
No, wait. When it was warmer there were sloths the size of elephants like Megatherium and herbivores like Megacerops, a North American rhino-like relative of the horse the size of an elephant, and even giant beavers like Castoroides (the size of a bear, in case you’re worried about things that eat trees like French fries). Then it got cold and they died, often helped by the aboriginals who lived in harmony with nature until Europeans came. But that’s a myth for another day.
The point is, the trees didn’t stand a chance until it got cold. There were no forests for moose to eat and too many moose eating them them for… oh good grief. Who writes this stuff? Someone with a B.A. in history (so we shouldn’t sneer although a bit of prehistory too would have been handy here), and “Coursework” in “American Studies”.
Moose ate my planet. Bummer.
P.S. The Canadian government apparently didn’t get the moose memo, since they’re boasting that “Canada supports caribou conservation in Nunavut” and, duh, it’s to preserve superior traditional aboriginal knowledge and you-know-what:
“The Government of Canada continues to work with Inuit partners to protect nature, conserve biodiversity, and combat the effects of climate change on land, water, ice, and wildlife. Caribou have a spiritual and cultural significance to many Indigenous peoples and are central to Inuit well-being in the Arctic ecosystem. Partnerships and collaboration are essential to monitor and conserve the caribou herds across Nunavut’s vast and varied landscapes and seascapes.”
Unless of course, they eat the dang climate. Then they’ve gotta go, and pronto.