Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Genetic diversity necessary for optimal ecosystem functioning, according to UGA research

20.08.2002


Though it has long been known by scientists that an ecosystem needs different kinds of plants and animals for optimal functioning, University of Georgia scientists have recently found that the genetic diversity of species within a habitat also affects ecosystem processes.



"It is not just the quantity of species diversity that matters, it is also the quality of genetic diversity," said lead author Mike Madritch, an ecology doctoral student at UGA. Madritch studied carbon and nitrogen fluxes during decomposition of leaf litter and found a significant link between nutrient output and the genetic variation of the leaves.

The study was co-authored with Mark Hunter, associate professor of ecology at UGA, and published this week in the Ecological Society of America’s journal, Ecology. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.


The study was conducted on a turkey oak (Quercus laevis Walter) sandhills community at UGA’s Savannah River Ecology Laboratory in Aiken, SC where Madritch and Hunter analyzed the decomposition of nine different single tree litter treatments and one mixed treatment that contained litter from all nine trees of the same species. They found a marked difference in the amount of carbon and nitrogen released based upon the parentage of the leaf litter.

"Diversity matters," said Madritch. "Our study shows that bringing a species population back from the brink of extinction to its original levels would not have the same effect on the environment as if the species never faced being endangered in the first place. When you build back from an endangered population, you necessarily are building from a limited gene pool, and we found that the variety in the genetic make-up matters to the system."

The researchers found not only that a reduction in genetic biodiversity affects the way an ecosystem functions, but they also found that a loss in genetic diversity reduces the predictability of how an ecosystem will work.

Single tree litter treatments did not always yield less carbon and nitrogen than the mixed treatment. Sometimes the single tree treatments produced more nutrients and sometimes they produced less, but the researchers say the nutrients were always significantly different than the mixed-litter treatment.

"The alarming part of this discovery is that you cannot predict the effect that reduced genetic biodiversity will have on an ecosystem," said Hunter. "Therefore, deforestation is like playing Russian roulette with our future. We know that relying upon fewer trees to recycle nutrients will make a difference, but we don’t know what kind of difference. It’s a chance I don’t think is worth taking."

Madritch and Hunter are convinced that conserving genetic diversity within a species is as important as conserving species diversity for maintaining ecosystem functions. "This research is especially important in the current mass extinction period," said Hunter. "Plants capture the energy that drives the planet. By continuing to destroy plant habitats, we reduce the available gene pool. In the end it could harm the biggest ecosystem of all: planet Earth."

Kim Carlyle | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.uga.edu/

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Gran Chaco: Biodiversity at High Risk
17.01.2018 | Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

nachricht Dead trees are alive with fungi
10.01.2018 | Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)

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: Scientists decipher key principle behind reaction of metalloenzymes

So-called pre-distorted states accelerate photochemical reactions too

What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...

Im Focus: The first precise measurement of a single molecule's effective charge

For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.

Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...

Im Focus: Paradigm shift in Paris: Encouraging an holistic view of laser machining

At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.

No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...

Im Focus: Room-temperature multiferroic thin films and their properties

Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.

Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...

Im Focus: A thermometer for the oceans

Measurement of noble gases in Antarctic ice cores

The oceans are the largest global heat reservoir. As a result of man-made global warming, the temperature in the global climate system increases; around 90% of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

10th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Münster, 10-11 April 2018

08.01.2018 | Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Gran Chaco: Biodiversity at High Risk

17.01.2018 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Only an atom thick: Physicists succeed in measuring mechanical properties of 2D monolayer materials

17.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Fraunhofer HHI receives AIS Technology Innovation Award 2018 for 3D Human Body Reconstruction

17.01.2018 | Awards Funding

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>