The butterfly effect


Newly emerged Monarch butterfly dries its wings before taking off. Image: Su Leslie 2017

“Notice the small things. The rewards are inversely proportional.” — Liz Vassey

In nature, Vassey’s words are particularly true. Whole eco-systems can be compromised by disruption to even the smallest part.

In 1800 Johann Gottlieb Fichte noted that “you could not remove a single grain of sand from its place without thereby … changing something throughout all parts of the immeasurable whole”.

Edward Lorenz later described this phenomenon asΒ the butterfly effect.


Monarch caterpillars. Image: Su Leslie 2017


Monarch butterfly emerging from chrysalis. Image: Su Leslie 2017

Scientists now believe that Earth is experiencing a potentially catastrophic loss of biodiversity — with insect species being especially at risk. (See Science Direct article)


Image: Su Leslie 2018


Image: Su Leslie 2018

Diminishing numbers of bees and butterflies have caused widespread concern, and gardeners around the world consciously grow plant species to feed and support these creatures.

But, while gardeners may not like them, snails and other less glamorous creatures are necessary too — consuming rotting vegetation and providing food for other species like birds, lizards and mammals.


Starfish are regarded as a “keystone species” in marine ecosystems — but are sensitive to both marine pollution and water temperatures.


Starfish, seen clinging to a rock on the Coromandel Coast, NZ. Image: Su Leslie 2018

The loss of any part of nature’s elegant and beautiful system is a tragedy in itself, but the consequences reach far beyond any single extinction, threatening the whole Earth.

It seems that humans have the power (at least for now) to protect the life-forms that remain (including our own), and reverse some of the damage done. But we’d better be quick.

Posted to Lens Artist’s Photo Challenge | nature

50 thoughts on “The butterfly effect

  1. What wonderful photos…and the sobering thoughts to go with them, Su. I let some milkweed grow in one of our gardens and we also have a butterfly bush, which brings some lovely insects right outside our window when it’s blooming. We really do need to act quickly, but there are little things that regular people can do as well.


    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Janet. I completely agree with you. The β€œbutterfly effect” includes our actions too β€” every milkweed plant and bee-friendly garden, every time we choose natural over synthetic pest control β€” baby steps but if enough of us take them …

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Well done, Su. Let us all work to do what we can to save our planet. I only buy plants that attracts insects for my garden. I do think the awareness is growing – but as you say, we had better be quick in response.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #34: Close-Up | Leya

  4. Such a wonderful and poignant post, Su! Your words echo my thoughts and feelings regarding this issue perfectly. And your photos are as always just stunning. I’m so I’m love with those bumblebee, snail and starfish shots! I was always quite fond of snails which drove my mother crazy because as a gardener she just hated them. πŸ˜‚
    It’s terrifying how fast so many species are decimated by us humans. I have a feeling there’s not much time left for us to save the planet and ourselves if we don’t change our selfcentered and selfish ways really soon. 😯

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much my friend. Some days I just despair for our planet. But I guess if those of us who care keep doing what we can, and raising our voices to inform others, maybe we can be the change that is needed.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for your important post. You touch on events very near and dear to me. I have done posts myself on both the butterfly catastrophe and sea star wasting disease recently on my blog. Get the word out!

    Liked by 1 person

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