Friday, October 21, 2011

The Paradox of Value

I had been hoping to focus my blog on the Anthropogenic Allee Effect since first hearing about it in lecture. What a crazy thing for mankind to do; discover rarity and push it to the limit—simply for the fleeting thrill of the hunt, joy in the exotic treasurer, or satisfaction with a complete collection. So with already a few opinions on the nature of my fellow man, this trend had me intrigued, a little irritated, and ready to learn more.

In case you don’t quite remember what the Anthropogenic Allee Effect (AAE) is, Courchamp et al. describe it in their article as, “The value attributed to rarity in some human activities that could precipitate the extinction of rare species.” There they list six different human activities that do, or have the potential to, induce an AAE. These are: Collections, Trophy Hunting, Luxury Items, Exotic Pets, Ecotourism, and Traditional Medicine. All of these activities place value on species that are exceedingly rare and, in doing so, continue to add to the their rarity as they take organisms out of their natural habitat for their own interests. Examples we discussed in class, and are mentioned in Courchamp et al.’s article, include Big Horn sheep—which hunters may pay up to $400,000 to hunt! and the Napoleon wrasse, which is highly valued for its uh, delicious?? lips.

But the Anthropogenic Allee Effect is not only a threat to the most charismatic and emblematic species, but also to the most inconspicuous invertebrate, as long as rarity renders it fashionable to exploit for one reason or another (Courchamp et al. 2006).

The consequences of the AAE are ultimately disastrous. If rarity continues to be the most desirable factor, then eventually everything will go extinct! And then where will we stand? Happy to collect cockroaches perhaps?

To learn more about the Anthopogenic Allee Effect or the Napoleon wrasse, please check out the sites listed below.

Courchamp F, Angulo E, Rivalan P, Hall RJ, Signoret L, et al. 2006 Rarity Value and Species Extinction: The Anthropogenic Allee Effect. PLoS Biol 4(12): e415. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0040415

Humphead Wrasses Awareness Campaign. The Humphead Wrasse. IUCN and Species Survival Commission. Web. 9 Aug. 2011.

Photo credit:

Darren JEW/WWF-Canon.

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