Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Biodiversity: It's in the water

08.05.2008
What if hydrology is more important for predicting biodiversity than biology?

Research published in the May 8th issue of the journal Nature challenges current thinking about biodiversity and opens up new avenues for predicting how climate change or human activity may affect biodiversity patterns.

In the article, an international group of researchers demonstrates that the distribution of fish species in a river system can be accurately predicted with a simple method that uses only the geomorphology of the river network and rainfall measurements for the river system.

The 3,225,000 km2 Mississippi-Missouri river basin covers all or part of 31 US states, spanning diverse habitat types and encompassing very different environmental conditions. The one thing linking all these habitats is the vast river network. Using geomorphological data from the US Geological Survey, the researchers – hydrologists from Princeton University and the EPFL in Lausanne, Switzerland, and biologists from the University of Maryland – identified 824 sub-basins in the network. In these, the simple presence (or not) of 433 species of fish was established from a database of US freshwater fish populations. Data on the average runoff production –the amount of rainfall that ends up in the river system and not evaporated back into the air – was then used to calculate the habitat capacity of each sub-basin.

With just four parameters, it’s “an almost ridiculously simple model,” explains EPFL professor Andrea Rinaldo. The model results were compared to extensive data on actual fish species distributions. Various different measures of biodiversity were analyzed, and the researchers were surprised to find that the model captured these complex patterns quite accurately. The model is all the more remarkable for what it does not contain – any reference, anywhere, to the biological properties of individual fish species.

It is a formulation that could be applied to any river system, or in fact, any network at all. All that's needed are the geomorphology of the landscape and an estimate of average dispersal behavior and habitat capacity. This model is general enough that it could be used to explore population migrations or epidemics of water-borne diseases in addition to biodiversity patterns. The researchers plan to extend their work to explore the extent to which simple hydrology can act as the determining factor in a wide range of biodiversity patterns.

“These results are a powerful reminder of the overarching importance of water, and the water-defined landscape, in determining patterns of life,” notes Princeton professor Ignacio Rodriguez-Iturbe. It provides a framework that could be used to connect large scale environmental changes to biodiversity. Changes in precipitation patterns, perhaps due to global climate change, could be mapped to changes in habitat capacities in the model, ultimately providing a way to estimate how climate change would alter large-scale patterns of biodiversity. It could also be used for an assessment of the impact of specific, local human activities, such as flow re-routing or damming, on the biodiversity patterns in a river network.

Mary Parlange | alfa
Further information:
http://www.epfl.ch

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Scientists team up on study to save endangered African penguins
16.11.2017 | Florida Atlantic University

nachricht Climate change: Urban trees are growing faster worldwide
13.11.2017 | Technische Universität München

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: Frictional Heat Powers Hydrothermal Activity on Enceladus

Computer simulation shows how the icy moon heats water in a porous rock core

Heat from the friction of rocks caused by tidal forces could be the “engine” for the hydrothermal activity on Saturn's moon Enceladus. This presupposes that...

Im Focus: Nanoparticles help with malaria diagnosis – new rapid test in development

The WHO reports an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths each year. The disease mostly affects tropical and subtropical regions and in particular the African continent. The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC teamed up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME and the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the University of Tübingen for a new test method to detect malaria parasites in blood. The idea of the research project “NanoFRET” is to develop a highly sensitive and reliable rapid diagnostic test so that patient treatment can begin as early as possible.

Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite. The most dangerous form of malaria is malaria tropica. Left untreated, it is fatal in most cases....

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Underwater acoustic localization of marine mammals and vehicles

23.11.2017 | Information Technology

Enhancing the quantum sensing capabilities of diamond

23.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Meadows beat out shrubs when it comes to storing carbon

23.11.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>