Ecosystems with high biodiversity are more productive and stable towards annual fluctuations in environmental conditions than those with a low diversity of species. They also adapt better to climate-driven environmental changes. These are the key findings environmental scientists at the University of Zurich made in a study of about 450 landscapes harbouring 2,200 plants and animal species.
The dramatic, worldwide loss of biodiversity is one of today's greatest environmental problems. The loss of species diversity affects important ecosystems on which humans depend.
Previous research predominantly addressed short-term effects of biodiversity in small experimental plots planted with few randomly selected plant species. These studies have shown that species-poor plant assemblages function less well and produce less biomass than species rich systems.
Extensive study with about 2,200 species in 450 landscapes
Researchers participating in the University Research Priority Programme “Global Change and Biodiversity” of the University of Zurich now demonstrate similar positive effects of biodiversity in real-world ecosystems in which mechanisms different from the ones in artificial experimental plots are at play. Using 450 different 1-km2 landscapes that spanned the entire area of Switzerland, they investigated the role of the diversity of plant, bird and butterfly species for the production of biomass, which was estimated from satellite data.
Biodiversity is important for the functioning of complex, natural ecosystems
“Our results show that biodiversity plays an essential role for the functioning of extensive natural landscapes that consist of different ecosystem types such as forests, meadows or urban areas”, study leader Pascal Niklaus from Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies says.
The analyses showed that landscapes with a greater biodiversity were more productive and that their productivity showed a lower year-to-year variation.
Biodiversity promoted the adaptation of landscapes
The satellite data analysed by the scientists revealed that the annual growing period increased in length throughout the last 16 years, an effect that can be explained by climate warming. The prolongation in growing season was considerably larger in more biodiverse landscapes.
These relations were robust and remained important even when a range of other drivers such as temperature, rainfall, solar irradiation, topography, of the specific composition of the landscapes were considered.
“This indicates that landscapes with high biodiversity can adapt better and faster to changing environmental conditions,” Niklaus concludes.
Jacqueline Oehri, Bernhard Schmid, Gabriela Schaepman-Strub, and Pascal A. Niklaus. Biodiversity promotes primary productivity and growing season lengthening at the landscape scale. PNAS. 4 September 2017. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1703928114
PD Dr. Pascal A. Niklaus
Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
University Research Priority Programme “Global Change and Biodiversity”
University of Zurich
Phone +41 44 635 34 13
Kurt Bodenmüller | Universität Zürich
More genes are active in high-performance maize
19.01.2018 | Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn
How plants see light
19.01.2018 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau
On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.
We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...
What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...
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...
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...
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...
08.01.2018 | Event News
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
19.01.2018 | Life Sciences
19.01.2018 | Life Sciences
19.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy