Understanding the Green World Hypothesis


The environment that we live in, also known as the ecosystem, has a bunch of variables in it. As humans, we consume the resources of the plant and it is regrown over time.

However, the rate of production among humans has increased, which means we are consuming more resources than the ones that are regenerating. We are producing more pollution, and that is ultimately leading us to global warming.

There have been many hypotheses focusing on the sustainability of the world. The Green World Hypothesis is perhaps one of the most interesting ones and looks at sustainability of the planet in a different manner.

Who Created the Hypothesis?

The Hypothesis was created by scientists from the United States. Their names were Nelson Hairston, Lawrence Slobodkin, and Frederick Smith. It was created back in the 1960s, and is still one of the most widely talked about hypotheses focusing on sustainability.

In a gist, the hypothesis states that natural predators are essential to the survival of the planet and its greenery. The reasoning provided in the hypothesis is that predators balance the number of herbivores that consume plants.

As a result, if the number of predators decrease, there will be more herbivores consuming plants, and ultimately, the biodiversity of the planet is going to suffer.

The Importance of Biodiversity

Biodiversity is a complicated subject, and understanding it is critical for establishing methods that promote sustainability around the planet. In 1963, a professor by the name of Robert Paine was walking along the beach in Makah Bay, Washington.

He saw a diverse group of species lined up along the beach, ranging from limpets, algae, barnacles, to starfish and anemones. According to the professor, the sea stars were at the pinnacle of the food chain on the beach.

They primarily consumed mussels, so that was the cornerstone of the whole pyramid. An experiment conducted later on showed that biodiversity as a whole decreased until only mussels and sea stars were left.

Understanding the Hypothesis

As the name suggests, this is a hypothesis. What this means is that the hypothesis has not yet been tested and proven. It is based on assumptions, and those assumptions are as follows.

The number of plants determines the greenery of the planet. If the plants decrease, our world becomes less green. The primary factor that can reduce the population of plants around the globe is the population of herbivores, which share an inverse relationship.

The more herbivores on the planet, the less quantity of plants. They will automatically consume more plants, and the world will start to lose its greenery as a result.

Creating a Balance

Then, the hypothesis claims that if we bring down the number of herbivores, the amount of plants across the globe will start to increase. As a result, the plant will become greener.

The hypothesis also offers a way to reduce the herbivore population: the predators can eat them. So, the higher the number of apex predators and the lower the herbivore prey, the greater the number of plants in the world.

A Simple Example

The hypothesis can be explained through the example of humans, cattle, and grass. Cows like to feed on grass and this reduces the amount of “greenery” on the planet.

However, if the population of cows decreases as humans start to consume them, the amount of covered area by the grass will ultimately start to rise. This is the entire concept behind the hypothesis.

However, while it’s easy to lay down assumptions, proving them is not easy at all. The world is not just one giant ecosystem, it is actually an accumulation of many smaller ecosystems that come together. As a result, removing the variables from such a large equation is virtually impossible.

A Real-World Example

There have been real-world examples that have shown that the Green World Hypothesis is interesting and holds value. In the year 1995, the management at Yellowstone National Park realized that the wildlife in the park was at an all-time low. It was dominated by mainly elk and deer.

In probably what is one of the most audacious experiments of its time, they introduced a couple of grey wolves into the world. As the grey wolves now became the apex predators, they began to feed on the deer and the elk.

To stay away from them, the deer and the elk started to leave certain sections of the park alone. When that happened, grass began to grow again, and entire areas were replanted quickly through pollination.

A Flourishing World

As the plants began to regrow and flowers started to bloom, bees began to move to these sections. As the insect population returned, so did the birds. They now had places where they could make their nests.

With time, animals such as beavers and otters also started to appear in the region, until a diverse group of species had taken over the park. When you think about it, it only happened due to the introduction of grey wolves.

These are carnivorous animals, so they leave the grass well alone and instead hunt on animals. The entire aspen region is now considered in recovery, having returned from what is probably the brink of decimation.

The Final Verdict

However, while it is one example, you have to understand that the variables were mostly in control. The human world is different. It is much larger, and the interactions between different ecosystems is also quite profound.

Removing a simple piece from the equation could lead to drastic results. In fact, there’s conclusive proof that the extinction of bees could ultimately cause the death of the plant and the extinction of the human race. Therefore, at the end of the day, it’s just a hypothesis, and very difficult to prove in real life.