Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Revealed: the secrets of successful ecosystems

13.03.2008
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:
http://www.imperial.ac.uk

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Preservation of floodplains is flood protection
27.09.2017 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Conservationists are sounding the alarm: parrots much more threatened than assumed
15.09.2017 | Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen

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: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Terahertz spectroscopy goes nano

20.10.2017 | Information Technology

Strange but true: Turning a material upside down can sometimes make it softer

20.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

NRL clarifies valley polarization for electronic and optoelectronic technologies

20.10.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>