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No. 107 July 22, 1995
aceska at freenet.victoria.bc.ca Victoria, B.C.
Dr. A. Ceska, P.O.Box 8546, Victoria, B.C. Canada V8W 3S2
BIODIVERSITY ICEBERGS - INVISIBLE MICRODIVERSITY MATTERS MOST
From: Dr. Alan Austin, Biology Department,
University of Victoria, Victoria, B.C., Canada
Despite Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, the electron microscope, flesh-
eating bacteria and the AIDS virus our particular species is
still preoccupied by things large, visible, warm blooded and
furry and with which we seem to be, at least somewhat, emotion-
ally involved. We thus spend a good deal of our resources worry-
ing, rightly so, about seals, cariboo, deer, whales, spotted
owls, the spectacular forest giants and associated elegant wild
flowers. Much of our concerns about biodiversity are centered
upon these larger creatures, for they are large, visible, more
easily inventoried and losses recognised.
However, there exists another level of threat to biodiversity
and we might need to ponder upon losses at not just of species
but at order, family, class and even phylum (division) levels.
Such losses are strongly suggested by the fact that higher
taxonomical categories are still being discovered in some groups
of organisms! The 1994 AAAS Systematics Agenda 2000, Charting
The Biosphere [see BEN # 71] printed a most revealing chart that
showed us the relationship between the estimated numbers of
species to be discovered as a factor of those already described.
Most of the organisms we can see, and rather easily count, have
a very small factors. The usually attractive large mammals, in
fact all vertebrates, are only about x 0.1 of those already
known, for plants it is just x 2, for Crustaceans times 4, but
undescribed bacteria are between 10 and 750 (!) times those
known and for algae between 5 and 250 times those already known!
This may not be surprising to a phycologist who like myself
through a lifetime of teaching from fresh field-collected,
living materials can be regularly mystified by seeing unknowns
at almost every laboratory session, despite experience in macro
marine algae from several bioregions as well as micro marine and
freshwater forms. Non phycologists may be unaware that not only
new species, genera families and orders, but higher taxon levels
keep appearing. A new class, the Pelagophyceae (uniflagellate,
golden-brown, ultraplanctonic organisms) was described two years
ago and a new division (phylum) the Chloroarachiophyceae (green
web-like colonies) a few years previously. Most sensational was
the discovery by Lewin, twenty years ago, of Prochloron, one of
the critical missing links between superkingdoms Prokaryota and
Now in view of the fact that the next major limiting factor in
the course of human population development, at about 2020, will
be the diminished freshwater resources, we may wish to encourage
our students to splash around in the various water bodies as the
lake litorals, ponds, pools and streams which teem with these
vitally important little coloured plants that continue to be
seriously neglected. We have just 20 years to get them found and
named, let alone inventoried, before the pressures upon water
supplies may massively alter their continued presence.
Biodiversity is not a entirely modern phenomenon - and it is an
alga, Grypanis spiralis, just recently described from old rock,
that has pushed back, some 300 million years, the evolutionary
date for the, rather critical, arrival of oxygen on our planet.
Finally when considering an ancient assemblage such as "the
algae" we may be looking at a swarm of "experimental organisms"
that fall together in natural phylogenetic division but may have
very few representatives living today in our much threatened and
exploited terrestrial and marine waters. The destruction of
these habitats may result not just in the extinction of a
species level taxon, which may be filled by another quite
similar form but the loss of totally unique and unrepeatable
biological entities at the division level. How much would we
have lost, and not learned, if the habitats of say Prochloron
had vanished before Ralph Lewin found it and recognised it for
what it was?
We need to develop, particularly in the very young, a form of
emotional attraction for identification with the very small and
seemingly insignificant, for these forms actually maintain the
functional integrity of all aquatic systems. They are also
exquisitely beautiful and exhibit adaptive design to gladden the
heart even of the most modest members of the stumbling, blunder-
ing, misguided, and misguiding species of which it is so easy to
say as did Grouch Marx, "I wouldn't join a club which had me
(Homo sapiens) as a member!?"
BRITISH COLUMBIA SIX THOUSAND YEARS BEFORE PRESENT
Hebda, R.J. 1995. British Columbia vegetation and climate
history with focus on 6 KA BP.
Geographie physique et Quaternaire, 49: 55-79.
ABSTRACT: British Columbia Holocene vegetation and climate is
reconstructed from pollen records. A coastal Pinus contorta
paleobiome developed after glacier retreat under cool and prob-
ably dry climate. Cool moist forests involving Picea, Abies,
Tsuga spp., and Pinus followed until the early Holocene. Pseudo-
tsuga menziesii arrived and spread in the south 10 000-9000 BP,
and Picea sitchensis - Tsuga heterophylla forests developed in
the north. T. heterophylla increased 7500-7000 BP, and Cupres-
saceae expanded 5000-4000 BP. Bogs began to develop and expand.
Modern vegetation arose 4000-2000 BP. There were early Holocene
grass and Artemisia communities at mid-elevations and pine
stands at high elevations in southern interior B.C. Forests
expanded downslope and lakes formed 8500-7000 BP. Modern forests
arose 4500-4000 BP while lower and upper tree lines declined. In
northern B.C. non-arboreal communities preceded middle Holocene
Picea forests. Abies, Pinus and Picea mariana predominated at
various sites after 4000 BP. AT 6000 BP Tsuga heterophylla
(south) and Picea sitchensis (north) dominated the coast and
islands and Quercus garryana and Pseudotsuga on southeast Van-
couver Island, but Thuja plicata was infrequent. Southern Inte-
rior Plateau vegetation at 6000 BP was more open than today at
middle to lower elevations, whereas forests covered the Northern
Interior Plateau. Picea forests occurred in northern B.C.
Holocene climate phases were : 1) warm dry "xerothermic" ca.
9500-7000 BP, 2) warm moist "mesothermic" ca. 7000-4500 BP, 3)
moderate and moist 4500-0 BP, with increasing moisture 8500-6000
BP and cooling (?increased moisture) 4500-3000 BP. B. C.'s
Hypsithermal had dry and wet stages; 6000 BP occurred in the
warm and wet mesothermic stage.
INTRODUCING THE CANADIAN BOTANICAL CONSERVATION NETWORK (CBCN)
From: d.galbraith at genie.geis.com [abbrev.]
The Canadian Botanical Conservation Network is a new initiative
to develop participation in biodiversity conservation programs
among ex-situ botanical institutions and organizations in
Canada. CBCN is presently a project of Royal Botanical Gardens
with partners Environment Canada, McMaster University, and
corporate partners Merck Frosst Canada Inc., and Glaxo Canada
The objective of CBCN is to develop a national network among
Canadian botanical organizations for their participation in the
Canadian Biodiversity Strategy. The project is at the early
development stage and is based at Royal Botanical Gardens.
Fifteen organizations have expressed an interest in participat-
ing in the network. Funding support has been secured for the
first two years of the project.
At both the national and international levels there are calls
for the organized participation of botanical gardens and ar-
boreta in cooperative conservation efforts. These voices range
from the Convention on Biological Diversity (the 1992 "Rio
Convention") to the 1995 Canadian Biodiversity Strategy and
reports from a Canadian group examining off site (ex situ)
propagation of plants.
During the past decade there has been an effort to develop a
professional network to coordinate ex-situ conservation of
native and non-native species among botanical organizations. In
1984 the Canadian Plant Conservation Programme was established,
but this lasted only a few years. More recently a Plant Collec-
tions Newsletter has been produced at Devonian Botanic Gardens,
University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta.
It is planned that the Canadian Botanical Conservation Network
will be a group of organizations and individuals cooperating to
promote the conservation of botanical genetic resources and
biological diversity across Canada. The objective of the network
will be to develop active participation in coordinated in-
situ/ex-situ conservation efforts for native and rare exotic
plants in Canada.
A great deal of information on botanical diversity already
exists in botanical gardens, universities and other research
centres. A majority role for CBCN will be to seek new ways to
provide wide access to existing data. CBCN will look for new
areas for research and development in biodiversity conservation
programs and promote new projects. There are also many important
opportunities for public education, commercial participation and
cultural enhancement inherent within CBCN.
In the future, a wide variety of information will be accessible
through CBCN, using the Internet in addition to more conven-
tional routes. The Canadian Botanical Conservation Network has
already established an Internet World Wide Web home page that
provides information on the CBCN project, and numerous links to
other sources of information. Visitors to the Web page can find
details on Canadian and international programs on biodiversity,
genetic resources, botany, biology and ecological gardening.
Environment Canada and McMaster University can also be reached
through the Web. A directory of Canadian botanical gardens and
arboreta is also available through the CBCN home page.
The prototype CBCN home page can be reached through the
Internet's World Wide Web protocol. The URL address (case sensi-
tive) for the CBCN home page is:
I would be grateful to receive your comments and suggestions on
this project. Please drop me a line for more information or with
Thanks for your attention,
Dr. David A. Galbraith - Coordinator
CANADIAN BOTANICAL CONSERVATION NETWORK
at Royal Botanical Gardens
P.O. Box 399
Canada L8N 3H8
Email: D.Galbraith at genie.geis.com
Tel: (905) 527-1158, Ext. 295
Fax: (905) 577-0375