The eco-fragility trope of Rachel Carson and Al Gore is wrong, says an unlikely source.
Peter Kareiva writes in the Breakthrough Journal that:
… The fragility trope dates back, at least, to Rachel Carson, who wrote plaintively in Silent Spring of the delicate web of life and warned that perturbing the intricate balance of nature could have disastrous consequences. Al Gore made a similar argument in his 1992 book, Earth in the Balance. And the 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment warned darkly that, while the expansion of agriculture and other forms of development have been overwhelmingly positive for the world’s poor, ecosystem degradation was simultaneously putting systems in jeopardy of collapse.
The trouble for conservation is that the data simply do not support the idea of a fragile nature at risk of collapse. Ecologists now know that the disappearance of one species does not necessarily lead to the extinction of any others, much less all others in the same ecosystem. In many circumstances, the demise of formerly abundant species can be inconsequential to ecosystem function. The American chestnut, once a dominant tree in eastern North America, has been extinguished by a foreign disease, yet the forest ecosystem is surprisingly unaffected. The passenger pigeon, once so abundant that its flocks darkened the sky, went extinct, along with countless other species from the Steller’s sea cow to the dodo, with no catastrophic or even measurable effects.
These stories of resilience are not isolated examples — a thorough review of the scientific literature identified 240 studies of ecosystems following major disturbances such as deforestation, mining, oil spills, and other types of pollution. The abundance of plant and animal species as well as other measures of ecosystem function recovered, at least partially, in 173 (72 percent) of these studies…