The new method extends a procedure familiar to biologists that involves investigating species numbers in relation to area (the species-area relationship, or SAR), by adding sophisticated statistical methods so that it can be used to describe the role of individual species in their impact on biodiversity.
This individualised method (‘individual species-area relationship’, or ISAR) makes it easier to identify key species. "We are effectively looking at diversity in the ecosystem through the glasses of the individual species," says co-author Dr Andreas Huth of the UFZ. This means that in future it will be easier to understand the role of individual species in ecosystems and to implement targeted protection measures for key species. In addition, the method can be used to investigate better the ecological consequences of changes in land use.
The researchers used their new method to evaluate unique data from two tropical rainforests in Sri Lanka and Panama that are part of a network coordinated by the Center for Tropical Forest Science (CTFS; http://www.ctfs.si.edu). Within this network, every single tree with a trunk thicker than a pencil has been mapped and monitored for years on about a dozen selected sample plots, some as large as 50 hectares, in tropical rainforests around the globe. The researchers compared in their study around 40 000 larger trees in the tropical rainforest on Barro Colorado Island, Panama, with those in the Sinharaja World Heritage Site in Sri Lanka.
To their surprise, more than two third of all species did not leave identifiable signatures on spatial diversity. The other tree species had an impact on local biodiversity only in their immediate surroundings, within a radius of up to 20 metres, but not on a large scale. These findings support the much-debated ‘neutral theory’, according to which species characteristics are unimportant for certain community attributes and play only a subsidiary role in the stability and diversity of ecosystems. The study reveals that the two tropical forests lacked any key species structuring species diversity at larger scales, suggesting that "balanced" species–species interactions may be a characteristic of these species rich forests. Dr Thorsten Wiegand says, "Biodiversity researchers have not been able to agree on which processes permit a high level of species diversity to emerge, and which processes keep these complicated systems stable".
On the research plot in Panama there were lots of ‘repellent’ species. By contrast, the one in Sri Lanka is dominated by ‘attractor’ species, i.e. species that promote biodiversity. "It is not yet known why these two tropical rainforests are so different in this regard" say Savitri Gunatilleke and her husband Nimal, both professors at the University of Peradeniya, "but our method is a leap forward in an understanding of the complexities of the origin and maintenance of species richness in tropical forests". After all, the method was being used for the first time. "We first used the new method in tropical rainforests, but it is universally applicable and can be used for plants in all ecosystems," says Dr Andreas Huth of the UFZ. The new method closes a gap between rather more crude descriptions of biodiversity (for the whole ecosystem) and extremely detailed analyses (interactions between individual species). In future then, the new method can also be combined with the forest simulation models already developed at the UFZ.
Doris Boehme | alfa
Cascading use is also beneficial for wood
11.12.2017 | Technische Universität München
The future of crop engineering
08.12.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie
DNA molecules that follow specific instructions could offer more precise molecular control of synthetic chemical systems, a discovery that opens the door for engineers to create molecular machines with new and complex behaviors.
Researchers have created chemical amplifiers and a chemical oscillator using a systematic method that has the potential to embed sophisticated circuit...
MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.
Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...
Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...
Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.
To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...
The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.
Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
07.12.2017 | Event News
15.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
15.12.2017 | Materials Sciences
15.12.2017 | Life Sciences