Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

How nature creates forest diversity

07.03.2017

Forest ecologists have long sought to understand why so many different species of trees can coexist in the same niche. A modeling study is now providing clues.

Forests, especially tropical forests, are home to thousands of species of trees—sometimes tens to hundreds of tree species in the same forest—a level of biodiversity ecologists have struggled to explain.


© Dariush M | Shutterstock

Quelle: IIASA

In a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), researchers at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) and their colleagues in Australia are now providing a first model that elucidates the ecological and evolutionary mechanisms underlying these natural patterns.

“Forests in particular and vegetation in general are central for understanding terrestrial biodiversity, ecosystem services, and carbon dynamics,” says IIASA Evolution and Ecology Program Director Ulf Dieckmann. Forest plants grow to different heights and at different speeds, with the tallest trees absorbing the greatest amounts of sunlight, and shorter trees and shrubs making do with the lower levels of sunlight that filter through the canopy.

These slow-growing shade-tolerant species come in an unexpectedly large number of varieties—in fact, far more than ecological models have been able to explain until now.

Traditional ecological theory holds that each species on this planet occupies its own niche, or environment, where it can uniquely thrive. However, identifying separate niches for each and every species has been difficult, and may well be impossible, especially for the observed plethora of shade-tolerant tropical trees. This raises the fundamental question: are separate niches really always needed for species coexistence?

In the new study, the researchers combined tree physiology, ecology, and evolution to construct a new model in which tree species and their niches coevolve in mutual dependence. While previous models had not been able to predict a high biodiversity of shade-tolerant species to coexist over long periods of time, the new model demonstrates how physiological differences and competition for light naturally lead to a large number of species, just as in nature.

At the same time, the new model shows that fast-growing shade-intolerant tree species evolve to occupy narrow and well-separated niches, whereas slow-growing shade-tolerant tree species have evolved to occupy a very broad niche that offers enough room for a whole continuum of different species to coexist—again, just as observed in nature.

Providing a more comprehensive understanding of forest ecosystems, the resulting model may prove useful for researchers working on climate change and forest management. Dieckmann says, “We hope this work will result in a better understanding of human impacts on forests, including timber extraction, fire control, habitat fragmentation, and climate change.”

The study was led by Daniel Falster at Macquarie University in Australia, who was a participant in the 2006 IIASA Young Scientists Summer Program.

Reference:
Falster DS, Brännström Å, Westoby M, Dieckmann U (2017). Multi-trait successional forest dynamics enable diverse competitive coexistence. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). doi: 10.1073/pnas.1610206114.

Weitere Informationen:

https://t.co/eiNfJ8HLLC

Katherine Leitzell | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Faba fix for corn's nitrogen need
11.04.2018 | American Society of Agronomy

nachricht Wheat research discovery yields genetic secrets that could shape future crops
09.04.2018 | John Innes Centre

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Spider silk key to new bone-fixing composite

University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.

Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.

Im Focus: Writing and deleting magnets with lasers

Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.

Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...

Im Focus: Gamma-ray flashes from plasma filaments

Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.

The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...

Im Focus: Basel researchers succeed in cultivating cartilage from stem cells

Stable joint cartilage can be produced from adult stem cells originating from bone marrow. This is made possible by inducing specific molecular processes occurring during embryonic cartilage formation, as researchers from the University and University Hospital of Basel report in the scientific journal PNAS.

Certain mesenchymal stem/stromal cells from the bone marrow of adults are considered extremely promising for skeletal tissue regeneration. These adult stem...

Im Focus: Like a wedge in a hinge

Researchers lay groundwork to tailor drugs for new targets in cancer therapy

In the fight against cancer, scientists are developing new drugs to hit tumor cells at so far unused weak points. Such a “sore spot” is the protein complex...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

IWOLIA: A conference bringing together German Industrie 4.0 and French Industrie du Futur

09.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Magnetic nano-imaging on a table top

20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Start of work for the world's largest electric truck

20.04.2018 | Interdisciplinary Research

Atoms may hum a tune from grand cosmic symphony

20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>