Sudden collapses in many ecological systems are the rule rather than exceptions to the rule.
This is shown by Professor Lennart Persson of Umeå University, Sweden, in the latest issue of the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Among other things, the article provides an explanation for the collapses in cod stocks in different parts of the world. Several models have shown that ecological systems can experience catastrophic collapses. On the other hand, these models have not been able to say how common they are.
Lennart Persson and co-author André M. De Roos of the University of Amsterdam have now shown in a model that two fundamental traits of individuals in many organisms promote the occurrence of catastrophic behaviors in ecological systems. The two traits that the authors have examined are the correlation between growth and the amount of ingested food and the correlation between mortality and body size. In simple terms, animals grow more the more they eat, and the smaller an animal is, the greater the risk that it will be eaten. On this basis, Persson and De Roos have been able to show that collapses in ecological systems are rather the rule than exceptions to the rule.
"The mechanism is actually quite simple, but that`s also what makes it so general," says Lennart Persson. "Considering that more than 85 percent of all species on earth exhibit populations with variations in size, these results should be extremely generalizable.
Paradoxically, the number of available prey can increase with the number of predators. This happens because the competition among the remaining prey diminishes, and these prey also grow more quickly. Increased growth yields greater reproduction, and that in turn leads to increased numbers of the small-sized prey that predators thrive on. If, on the other hand, mortality among predators increases, say as a result of high pressures from fishing, it is a natural consequence for mortality to rise among the prey these predators live on. This in turn means that competition increases among the prey, thereby checking their growth. This leads to a decline in the number of prey of the sizes preferred by predators. This can bring about a collapse in the number of predators.
When a collapse occurs, it comes extremely rapidly, and it is difficult to discover changes in advance. The species that professional fishers capture in their nets, such as cod and full-grown herring, provide no clues to what is under way. On the other hand, the small-sized, sexually immature individuals of the species of prey that are nevertheless too large to be eaten by the predators (sexually immature herring, for instance) and the food that the former live on exhibit differences.
"It is actually these small-sized individuals of the species of prey that need to be monitored, because it is here that you can get a measure of when collapse is imminent," explains Lennart Persson.
These small-sized individuals of the species of prey increase in number when the fishing of predators increases. This occurs since the competition for food increases among the small-sized individuals. They have no possibility of growing larger, so their growth is stunted, and the number of small-sized individuals grows. This means that we must be extremely vigilant.
"If fishing is increased, very little change will be noticed until there is a collapse. In order to promote growth at this juncture, fishing must be cut to extremely low levels. Halving quotas, for example, will not help; total bans on fishing are the only answer then," says Lennart Persson.
This line of reasoning is supported by developments in North Atlantic cod stocks, which have not recovered despite drastically reduced fishing.
Karin Wikman | AlphaGalileo
Joint research project on wastewater for reuse examines pond system in Namibia
19.12.2016 | Technische Universität Darmstadt
Scientists produce a new roadmap for guiding development & conservation in the Amazon
09.12.2016 | Wildlife Conservation Society
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).
Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...
Many pathogens use certain sugar compounds from their host to help conceal themselves against the immune system. Scientists at the University of Bonn have now, in cooperation with researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom, analyzed the dynamics of a bacterial molecule that is involved in this process. They demonstrate that the protein grabs onto the sugar molecule with a Pac Man-like chewing motion and holds it until it can be used. Their results could help design therapeutics that could make the protein poorer at grabbing and holding and hence compromise the pathogen in the host. The study has now been published in “Biophysical Journal”.
The cells of the mouth, nose and intestinal mucosa produce large quantities of a chemical called sialic acid. Many bacteria possess a special transport system...
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
05.01.2017 | Event News
17.01.2017 | Earth Sciences
17.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
17.01.2017 | Architecture and Construction