The study reveals a direct link, previously theorised but never proven on a global scale, between the size of the geographical range that a species inhabits and regional variations in extinction risk and biodiversity. The international team hopes this new ability to plot patterns on a global scale will enable conservationists to predict and even slow or reverse future extinctions.
The new data provides the first strong evidence that species’ range areas are smallest in the tropics and larger in temperate and polar regions. A smaller range area means that many different types of creature can be accommodated in the same space, explaining why regions such as the Amazon Basin contain such a rich variety of species. Conversely, temperate areas contain a smaller number of different species since large range areas mean fewer species can co-exist.
This in turn has important implications for extinction risks. The team has shown that species with a smaller range size are at a greater risk of extinction, probably due to their increased vulnerability to events that could change or destroy their habitat. A larger range size, on the other hand, means fewer species but larger populations of those that exist, making it less likely that the whole population can be wiped out by events such as tornados. Lead researcher Professor Ian Owens of Imperial College London's Division of Biology says:
“There are marked variations in biodiversity and extinction rates in different parts of the world, and why this should be has been a big area of research and debate. Theories have pretty much all rested on the core assumption that range size is the key, but until now tests have proved inconclusive due to a lack of global data. This is really a huge step forward in understanding ecology on a world-wide level and hopefully will allow real results in protecting species that we are in danger of losing.”
Researchers have previously thought that range size varied on a latitudinal basis, declining from the largest in the northern hemisphere to the smallest in the southern. The team’s work has revealed a much more complex situation, says Professor Owens, with different patterns emerging globally. He adds:
“We’ve found that the patterns seen in the well-studied northern regions can’t be assumed to apply to the rest of the world - a global perspective is needed. This means that conservation can’t be planned on a one-size-fits-all basis and we will have to properly understand how different micro-ecologies work in order to really make a difference. Our next task is to test whether our findings in birds are replicated in other types of organism.”
Abigail Smith | alfa
Upcycling 'fast fashion' to reduce waste and pollution
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27.03.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
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Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
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Two researchers at Heidelberg University have developed a model system that enables a better understanding of the processes in a quantum-physical experiment...
Glaciers might seem rather inhospitable environments. However, they are home to a diverse and vibrant microbial community. It’s becoming increasingly clear that they play a bigger role in the carbon cycle than previously thought.
A new study, now published in the journal Nature Geoscience, shows how microbial communities in melting glaciers contribute to the Earth’s carbon cycle, a...
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21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy