Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Biodiversity in the balance

04.09.2014

A new study calls into question the evolutionary stability of an ecological explanation of biodiversity.

The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, brings together evolutionary theory and ecology to explore one of the big questions in ecology: How is biodiversity developed and maintained?

“This is a fundamental question if we want to protect biodiversity—what exactly do we need to protect?” says International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) Evolution and Ecology Program Director Ulf Dieckmann, who led the study together with Florian Hartig from the University of Freiburg, collaborating with colleagues from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research in Leipzig and the French National Center for Scientific Research in Grenoble.

In introductory biology courses, students learn that two species cannot occupy the same niche, and that the world’s biodiversity is thus closely related to the number of niches that exist. But in fact, in the real world this is often not true—it appears that organisms can and do occupy the same niche, meaning that they feed on the same resource, in the same place, at the same time.

“For example,” says Dieckmann, “herring and sprat in the Baltic Sea occupy very similar ecological niches, feeding on the same kinds of plankton. How such species can robustly co-exist is a key question for modern ecology.”

One theory, known as Relative Nonlinearity of Competition (RNC), suggests that such species can co-exist because they react differently to fluctuations in resources or other limiting factors—such as algal blooms for fish, or rainfall variations for mosquitoes—causing changes in the environment that temporarily benefit the other species. This leads to a dynamic relationship in which each species temporarily benefits from the other’s influence on the environment, holding the two in balance.

“The idea has held up well in theory, but it’s difficult to test in practice,” says Dieckmann. So he and his colleagues decided to test RNC from another perspective, using three standard evolutionary models. “We wanted to find out what happens to the RNC mechanism when we allow the species to adapt.”

Their results show that RNC is typically not stable if one considers evolution: in all three models, the species differences that supported their coexistence disappear through adaptation. This means that, evolutionarily, the two coexisting species are outcompeted and replaced by a single species. Dieckmann says, “We thus suggest that the potential of this mechanism for explaining the origin and maintenance of biodiversity might have been overestimated in the literature.”

The scientists conclude that further research will be needed to understand what other mechanisms support biodiversity.

Dieckmann says that the study points to the importance of interdisciplinary research, such as that conducted at IIASA. “Because evolution and ecology research are most often done in isolation, nobody had yet thought to ask whether this mechanism was evolutionarily stable.”

Reference:
Hartig F, Münkemüller T, Johst K, Dieckmann U. 2014. On the sympatric evolution and evolutionary stability of coexistence by relative nonlinearity of competition. PLOS ONE. http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0094454

For more information contact:
Ulf Dieckmann
Program Director
Evolution and Ecology
+43(0) 2236 807 386
dieckmann@iiasa.ac.at

Katherine Leitzell
IIASA Press Office
Tel: +43 2236 807 316
Mob: +43 676 83 807 316
leitzell@iiasa.ac.at

About IIASA:
IIASA is an international scientific institute that conducts research into the critical issues of global environmental, economic, technological, and social change that we face in the twenty-first century. Our findings provide valuable options to policy makers to shape the future of our changing world. IIASA is independent and funded by scientific institutions in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Oceania, and Europe. www.iiasa.ac.at

Weitere Informationen:

http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0094454

Katherine Leitzell | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

Further reports about: Analysis Biodiversity Ecology Evolution IIASA Oceania RNC ecology leads means species

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Memories Influence Choice of Food
22.05.2015 | Universität Basel

nachricht Memories Influence The Decision in Choosing Certain Foods
21.05.2015 | Universitätsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Basel Physicists Develop Efficient Method of Signal Transmission from Nanocomponents

Physicists have developed an innovative method that could enable the efficient use of nanocomponents in electronic circuits. To achieve this, they have developed a layout in which a nanocomponent is connected to two electrical conductors, which uncouple the electrical signal in a highly efficient manner. The scientists at the Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel have published their results in the scientific journal “Nature Communications” together with their colleagues from ETH Zurich.

Electronic components are becoming smaller and smaller. Components measuring just a few nanometers – the size of around ten atoms – are already being produced...

Im Focus: IoT-based Advanced Automobile Parking Navigation System

Development and implementation of an advanced automobile parking navigation platform for parking services

To fulfill the requirements of the industry, PolyU researchers developed the Advanced Automobile Parking Navigation Platform, which includes smart devices,...

Im Focus: First electrical car ferry in the world in operation in Norway now

  • Siemens delivers electric propulsion system and charging stations with lithium-ion batteries charged from hydro power
  • Ferry only uses 150 kilowatt hours (kWh) per route and reduces cost of fuel by 60 percent
  • Milestone on the road to operating emission-free ferries

The world's first electrical car and passenger ferry powered by batteries has entered service in Norway. The ferry only uses 150 kWh per route, which...

Im Focus: Into the ice – RV Polarstern opens the arctic season by setting course for Spitsbergen

On Tuesday, 19 May 2015 the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its home port in Bremerhaven, setting a course for the Arctic. Led by Dr Ilka Peeken from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) a team of 53 researchers from 11 countries will investigate the effects of climate change in the Arctic, from the surface ice floes down to the seafloor.

RV Polarstern will enter the sea-ice zone north of Spitsbergen. Covering two shallow regions on their way to deeper waters, the scientists on board will focus...

Im Focus: Gel filled with nanosponges cleans up MRSA infections

Nanoengineers at the University of California, San Diego developed a gel filled with toxin-absorbing nanosponges that could lead to an effective treatment for skin and wound infections caused by MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), an antibiotic-resistant bacteria. This "nanosponge-hydrogel" minimized the growth of skin lesions on mice infected with MRSA - without the use of antibiotics. The researchers recently published their findings online in Advanced Materials.

To make the nanosponge-hydrogel, the team mixed nanosponges, which are nanoparticles that absorb dangerous toxins produced by MRSA, E. coli and other...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International symposium: trends in spatial analysis and modelling for a more sustainable land use

20.05.2015 | Event News

15th conference of the International Association of Colloid and Interface Scientists

18.05.2015 | Event News

EHFG 2015: Securing health in Europe. Balancing priorities, sharing responsibilities

12.05.2015 | Event News

 
Latest News

Mesoporous Particles for the Development of Drug Delivery System Safe to Human Bodies

22.05.2015 | Materials Sciences

Computing at the Speed of Light

22.05.2015 | Information Technology

Development of Gold Nanoparticles That Control Osteogenic Differentiation of Stem Cells

22.05.2015 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>