The Web of Life

“Whenever we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” - John Muir

Georges Seurat's "A Sunday on the La Grande Jatte", 1884, showing the use of many small dots to make up the whole piece.
Georges Seurat's "A Sunday on the La Grande Jatte", 1884, showing the use of many small dots to make up the whole piece.

Original painting located at the Art Institute of Chicago.

When thinking about the connections of biodiversity, consider a famous painting by Georges Seurat, in which the artistic technique “pointillism” was used. From a distance his painting represents a complete scene. But up close, one can see that it is composed entirely of small dots of paint, each important and contributing to the whole.

Georges Seurat used about 3.5 million dots of color to create this masterpiece. Imagine if some of the dots were erased or if the colors were replaced by only one shade. It wouldn’t take long for the painting to become unrecognizable.

Now, think of the different dots like the different species that make up our whole planet.

There are an estimated 8.7 million species of life on Earth. Each is connected to others, together forming a complex web of life. Scientists think that about 100 extinctions per million species occur every year—“dots” being erased. Exotic and invasive species replace native species, disrupt natural systems and decrease the variety of life on our planet. The decline of biodiversity is worsened by climate change, diseases, land conversion and fragmentation, and other stressors.