The article is to appear in the online issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the week of Nov. 5.
“The process by which plants grow and produce more plant biomass is one of the most fundamental biological processes on the planet,” said Bradley Cardinale, lead author of the paper and assistant professor of biology at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Plant productivity regulates the ability of nature to take greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, as well as the ability of habitats to produce oxygen, food, fiber, and biofuels, according to the authors of the study. “Therefore, species extinctions could compromise the benefits that nature provides to society,” said Cardinale.
The study summarized the results of 44 experiments from around the world that simulated plant species extinction and showed that ecosystems with fewer species produce up to 50 percent less plant biomass than those with more “natural” levels of diversity.
“Our analyses provide the most comprehensive evidence yet that natural habitats with a greater variety of plant species are more productive,” said co-author Michel Loreau of McGill University in Montreal. “This occurs partly because diverse communities are more likely to contain highly productive species. But even more important, our analyses show that diverse communities are more productive because plants are ‘complementary’ in how they use biological resources. In other words, different plant species play unique roles in the environment.”
Co-author Andy Hector, an assistant professor at the University of Zurich, explained this result with a sports analogy. “The results of our analyses suggest that plant communities operate much like a soccer team,” he said. “Teams are composed of both star players and supporting players. You probably can’t win many games if you lose your top striker because she or he is the most productive player and can dominate a game. But strikers cannot win games by themselves. They need great passes from supporting players and solid goal-tending if the team is going to be successful as a whole.”
According to the authors, plant communities are also composed of both stars and supporting players. Some plants are so productive that they dominate the productivity of natural habitats. But supporting species complement the key players and enhance the productivity of plant communities even further.
They said that species extinction is one of the most pronounced environmental changes of our time and noted that many scientists now argue that the Earth is in the middle of the sixth mass extinction in the history of life. Some estimates suggest that as much as 50 percent of all known species could be extinct by the end of this century.
Cardinale emphasized that experiments to date have probably underestimated the impact of species loss on ecosystems. “We found that as experiments were run longer, they detected increasingly strong impacts of species diversity on plant productivity,” he said. “Unfortunately, because most experiments have only been funded to run for a few years at a time, they have probably underestimated the impacts of extinction on natural habitats.”
Gail Gallessich | EurekAlert!
International network connects experimental research in European waters
21.03.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)
World Water Day 2017: It doesn’t Always Have to Be Drinking Water – Using Wastewater as a Resource
17.03.2017 | ISOE - Institut für sozial-ökologische Forschung
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
23.03.2017 | Life Sciences
23.03.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
23.03.2017 | Earth Sciences