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Ecological Enterprises - Butterfly Effect and the Integrity of Inner and Outer Nature

LED Stories

Ecological Enterprises - Butterfly Effect and the Integrity of Inner and Outer Nature

Elias Hakalehto, PhD, Adj. Prof.

Microbiologist, Biotechnologist

CEO, Finnoflag Oy

Vice President, International Society of Environmental Indicators

Fellow Member, International Society for Development and Sustainability (ISDS) (Japan)

Published 4th of February, 2022

In modern times, we have become increasingly aware of the alarming situation of the global ecosystem. This state of affairs has sparred considerable activity around the so-called discipline of ecosystem engineering, which has turned out to be a natural source of novel business ideas, besides being a necessity for our planetary survival. The origin of this new wave of technological development was the oil drilling accident on the Deepwater Horizon platform in the Mexican Gulf. After the disaster, the maritime microbiome had mitigated the damage to the sea and its creatures in some years. It was then understood that we could exploit these natural microbes in many other locations to help in preventing ecocatastrophes.

Catastrophes are caused by some unfortunate circumstances, developments or accidents. We could also learn to foresee better the causalities behind them and the first signs of the deleterious sequences of events. Microbes could be a critical clue in finding information about the changes and imbalances. Also, such symptoms as changes in bird species distribution or plant species occurrence or sudden intrusion could be observed. However, the plants and animals could be geographically determined, whereas the microbes are more omnipresent. Understanding their ways could thus be most informative in identifying the flow of any ecological events or gradients.

The biochemical unity of living things was suggested by Dutch microbiologist Albert Jan Kluyver (1888-1956). His works on microbial metabolism and pathways elucidated these common motifs in biology. They opened our thinking in understanding the functions of bacteria as well humans. However, the former ones constitute communities of singular cells instead of specified cells or tissues. In any case, whatever happens to any cell will most likely get its reflection in the adjacent ones. Such interdependencies form the networks in the ecosystems.

The "butterfly effect" illustrates the interdependence of all living things in the global ecosystem. The idea behind the concept was presented by the American mathematician and meteorologist and MIT professor Edward Lorenz (1917-2008). A Hollywood movie with the same title was produced in 2004. In this movie, the flashing movement of butterfly wings had changed the results of an election during the time travel of the key figures. - Prof. Lorenz was the founder of chaos theory, and he studied the origins, direction and duration of tornadoes. He established the theoretical basis of weather and climate prognosis. His discovery of deterministic chaos is considered one of the most significant findings in Sciences.

Such "butterfly effects" occur in real life. In terms of probabilities, the likelihood of any single alternate event is often extremely rare. Nevertheless, these incidences take place all the time. Our reality is an ocean of these unlikely but factual happenings. -The relatively recent findings of the giant viruses or giruses have been described in American Scientist in 2011 by Van Etten. Such massive viruses were not spotted earlier simply because they were too big and, consequently, not found in the filtrate of biological materials when researchers searched viruses for their existence.

The first giant virus to be discovered in 2003 was Acanthamoeba polyphaga mimivirus. It has a diameter of 750nm, being almost twice the size of the smallest bacteria. Its genome contains nearly 1 200 000 base pairs, which is more than Chlamydia or Mycoplasma bacteria generally have. The typical size range of viruses is between 200 and 750 nm, and many of them can be seen by light microscopy.

Two examples could demonstrate the central role of giruses in climate-related effects:

1. In the oceans, some rifts of microscopic algae, phytoplankton, could bloom as rifts thousands of kilometres long. Emiliania huxleyi is one of the most abundant photosynthesizing algae in the oceans. Suppose any event, possibly as a "little one" as the flashing of the butterfly wings, could initiate the spread of giant viruses among this phytoplankton species. In that case, this could lead to a massive infection that destroys the vast community. Consequently, the organic matter dissolved from the degrading algae is further metabolized by marine micro-organisms. Then the sulphur-containing substances produce dimethylsulfoxide which liberates to the air. There it acts in forming condensation centres for humidity. That leads to heavy rains and storms.

2. As acidic rain falls to the seas, it precipitates calcium from the seawater. That leads to the precipitates on the coastal rocks, such as the White Cliffs of Dover, in England.

If such dramatic climate effects result from microscopic viruses' activities, there is no reason to overlook any single event as a cause of significant developments. In the global picture, we could thus understand the minor reasons for that substantial magnitude of consequences. - In fact, this we can see in the piloting of massive scale bioreactors, where swift cohesive actions of microbial communities could be exploited. Furthermore, such phenomena could lead to record level productivities of biochemicals, such as will be introduced by the undersigned in the connection of Tampere Hiedanranta biorefinery project during the EGU22 (European Geosciences Union) General Assembly in Vienna in May 2022.

Every potential development has its positive and negative sides or side effects. If we investigate the positive ones, we could harness the biological systems to work for the benefit of Mankind. Then the key is the built-in characteristics of the natural organisms such as the microbes. Then any flashing light from the colourful wings of a butterfly could envision the way for a better tomorrow.

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