PerspectiveEcology

Tsunami debris spells trouble

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Science  29 Sep 2017:
Vol. 357, Issue 6358, pp. 1356
DOI: 10.1126/science.aao5677

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Summary

Since the emergence of agriculture, human influence on the environment has been unremitting, through habitat transformation, species exploitation, and, more recently, climate change as a result of greenhouse gas emissions. Over the past century, the pace of many of these processes has increased (1). The effects of these continual influences, or press perturbations (2), on biodiversity are so extensive that they have been described as annihilation (3). By contrast, human-induced pulse perturbations—that is, more short-lived disturbances such as point-source pollution—tend to be more spatially restricted. Large-scale pulse perturbation events, such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, are typically viewed as natural processes that influence biodiversity. On page 1402 of this issue, Carlton et al. (4) show that this view has to change.