Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Life in the collision zone: Mountains trigger biodiversity

For a long time it was assumed that stable environments lead to higher species richness, as they allow speciation.

New research suggests, however, that geologically dynamic regions sustain higher biodiversity. Young mountainous areas offer new habitats, ecological gradients and unoccupied niches in which new species evolve.

Landscape in the Peruvian Andes.
© Bas Wallet

Scientists from the Universities of Amsterdam, Gothenburg and Frankfurt, the Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung and the Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiK-F) advocate in today's issue of the journal Nature Geoscience for a closer cooperation between life and earth sciences.

Long-term environmental stability does not correlate with species richness and biodiversity. Rather, recent studies indicate that unstable, changing habitats open new avenues for biodiversity. Especially the uplift of mountain ranges plays a major role: It creates a multitude of dynamic habitats with new climatic and physical conditions and ecological gradients that are available to be colonized by emerging species.

Mountain ranges: Barriers and bridges at the same time

Mountain ranges have various direct impacts on biodiversity: While they prevent the spread of some organisms, they represent bridges between separate habitats for others. Uplifting mountains divide previously continuous habitats, or connect land masses and create new paths for spreading species. Mountainous regions are also home to a variety of species adapted to environmental niches – and these species seem to be less affected by changing climatic conditions than lowland species that occupy a large range: The former only need to move short distances to meet suitable temperature conditions. Thus, due to their high biodiversity, a result of high speciation and low extinction, mountains act as “biodiversity pumps”, feeding the rest of the continents.

In constant flux: formation of new habitats

Mountains also exert indirect influence on biodiversity. South America’s Amazon basin, for example, immensely rich in biodiversity, would not exist without the Andes. Following the uplift of the mountain range, the Amazon basin formed. The runoff from the Andes and the nutrient-rich sediments provided by constant Andean weathering of rocks form the basis for the unique species richness of the Amazon region. The impact of the mountains even extends far into the Atlantic Ocean: the Amazon Plume, sediments transported by the river which are clearly visible on satellite images, creates geochemical conditions entirely different from neighboring ocean zones. And this is not a unique case: Prof. Dr. Andreas Mulch (BiK-F, SGN and Goethe University), one of the authors points out: "This continental impact of a mountain region as a driver of evolution is not specific to the Andes. It also applies to the Himalayas or the Alps.
Pioneer Alfred Wegener: call for cooperation between earth and life sciences

"Already Alfred Wegener, when he presented his theory of continental drift at the Senckenberg Museum, advocated an interdisciplinary approach," says Prof. Dr. Volker Mosbrugger, Director General of the Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung and co-author of the paper. "But only today, a hundred years later, this cooperation is finally being realized." To understand formation and vanishing of global biodiversity, earth and life sciences but must join forces. A growing scientific interest in interdisciplinary projects, new molecular techniques and advanced reconstructions of Earth surface processes enable scientists to explain more comprehensively, how geology and climate interact to influence evolutionary processes. In their comment to the journal Nature Geoscience, the scientists argue that research should embrace these joint approaches, since comprehensive understanding of global biodiversity is only to be achieved if the interactions of geo- and biosphere are addressed by interdisciplinary efforts.

Hoorn, C., Mosbrugger, V., Mulch, A. & A. Antonelli: Biodiversity from mountain building. Nature Geoscience, doi:10.1038/ngeo1742

For further information please contact:

Prof. Dr. Andreas Mulch
LOEWE Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiK-F)
Tel. +49 (0)69 7542 1881


Dr. Julia Krohmer
LOEWE Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiK-F),
Transfer office
Phone +49 (0)69 7542 1837

LOEWE Biodiversität und Klima Forschungszentrum, Frankfurt am Main
With the objective of analysis the complex interactions between biodiversity and climate through a wide range of methods, the Biodiversität und Klima Forschungszentrum [Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre] (BiK‐F) has been funded since 2008 within the context of the Landes‐Offensive zur Entwicklung Wissenschaftlich-ökonomischer Exzellenz (LOEWE) of the Land of Hessen. The Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung and Goethe University in Frankfurt as well as other, directly involved partners, co‐operate closely with regional, national and international institutions in the fields of science, resource and environmental management, in order to develop projections for the future and scientific recommendations for sustainable action.

Sabine Wendler | Senckenberg
Further information:

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Receding glaciers in Bolivia leave communities at risk
20.10.2016 | European Geosciences Union

nachricht UM researchers study vast carbon residue of ocean life
19.10.2016 | University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>