Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Revealed: the secrets of successful ecosystems

The productivity and biodiversity of an ecosystem is significantly affected by the rate at which organisms move between different parts of the ecosystem, according to new research out today (13 March 2008) in Nature.

Scientists hope that understanding the mechanisms which determine the diversity and productivity of ecosystems will help ecologists and conservationists to develop strategies to ensure that conservation areas are highly productive and rich in biodiversity.

The study used a lab-based artificial ecosystem of communities of bacteria to examine what happens when the bacteria move around and evolve to live in different parts of the ecosystem over the course of hundreds of generations. The scientists measured the effect this dispersal of species has on the productivity and biodiversity of the ecosystem over all.

'Productive' ecosystems are defined as those that support a large total amount of living matter, from tiny microbes up to plants and animals. Scientists refer to this measurement of the amount of life present as an ecosystem's 'biomass'. A number of studies in the last decade have shown that ecosystems that have a high biodiversity - meaning they are rich in variety of species - are also highly productive over short time scales, but until now the underlying processes creating this link between high levels of biodiversity and productivity over evolutionary time scales have not been understood.

The scientific team behind this new research found that both the biodiversity and productivity of an ecosystem are at a peak when there is an intermediate rate of dispersal of species - not too little and not too much - between different parts of the ecosystem.

When there is little or no dispersal, populations of species that remain in harsh areas of an ecosystem are unable to adapt to their environment due to a low population size and lack of genetic variation. Conversely, when there is too much dispersal in an ecosystem, species evolve to be 'generalists' that can survive in many habitats, but fail to thrive in any given one.

Dr Craig Maclean, one of the authors of the study at the NERC Centre for Population Biology at Imperial College London, explains that an intermediate rate of dispersal creates a 'happy medium' wherein species move around enough to ensure that harsh environments are adapted to, but not so much that they become generalists.

He says: "Dispersal constantly brings new individuals and new genes into harsh environments, which is essential for evolutionary adaptation to difficult environments. When species adapt to new environments it increases the productivity of the ecosystem and it can increase the biodiversity, as movement between different parts of an ecosystem provides more 'niches' for species to exploit."

To carry out the study, the research team created an artificial ecosystem for the bacterium Pseudomonas fluorescens. The ecosystem consisted of 95 different areas, each one containing a different food source. The scientists introduced the bacteria - which could eat approximately half of the 95 food sources - to the ecosystem, and then began to manipulate the rate at which the bacteria dispersed between the 95 different areas.

Every day during the experiment, the team measured the biomass in the ecosystem as an indicator of the ecosystem's productivity, and found that the levels of biomass were highest when there was an intermediate dispersal rate.

After 400 generations, the team isolated bacteria from the ecosystem and measured the ability of the bacteria to grow on each of the food sources. Using this data, the team were able to measure the diversity of the ecosystem, as it indicated how many different species had evolved from the bacteria which were originally introduced to the experiment, which could only eat half of the food sources available.

The research was carried out by an international team, led by Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique scientists at Montpellier 2 University in France, in collaboration with Imperial College London and the University of Liverpool.

Danielle Reeves | alfa
Further information:

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Invasive Insects Cost the World Billions Per Year
04.10.2016 | University of Adelaide

nachricht Malaysia's unique freshwater mussels in danger
27.09.2016 | The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

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 >>>