Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Loss of species makes nature more sensitive to climate change

26.09.2012
When we wipe out the most sensitive species, human beings reduce the resilience of ecosystems to climate change, reveals a new study from biologists at the University of Gothenburg, published today in the journal Ecology Letters.

High biodiversity acts as an insurance policy for nature and society alike as it increases the likelihood that at least some species will be sufficiently resilient to sustain important functions such as water purification and crop pollination in a changing environment.

“It’s the same principle as an investment portfolio – you’d be mad to put all your eggs in one basket,” says researcher Johan Eklöf.

Experiments with eelgrass meadows in shallow inlets on the west coast of Sweden are now showing that climate change can exacerbate the negative effects of losing sensitive species, and that the insurance effect of biodiversity may be weaker than what we typically assume.

Eelgrass meadows in shallow inlets are important nursery habitats for cod, for example. Since the early 1980s the prevalence of eelgrass has fallen dramatically along the Bohuslän coast.

This is thought to be due partly to eutrophication, which favours mats of filamentous "nuisance" algae which shade and suffocate the eelgrass, and partly to the loss of cod, which has resulted in a huge increase in numbers of smaller predatory fish. These predatory fish, in turn, reduce numbers of Grammarus locusta, herbivorous crustaceans which are effective grazers that normally control the filamentous algae.

This type of cascade effect has become increasingly common both onshore and off as many types of predator have been wiped out by hunting or fishing. Worryingly, theory and observations would indicate that these effects could magnify the effects of global warming, which favours heat-tolerant but grazing-sensitive plants such as filamentous algae.

At the Sven Lovén Centre for Marine Sciences’ Kristineberg research station on Gullmarsfjorden, researchers from the University of Gothenburg’s Department of Biology and Environmental Sciences have developed miniature ecosystems in outdoor aquariums and have been investigating how future ocean warming and ocean acidification could affect the balance between eelgrass and filamentous algae.

The effects were unexpectedly clear and unambiguous: it was the diversity of algal herbivores that determined the extent to which the ecosystem was affected by warming and acidification.

“High diversity meant that neither warming nor acidification had any real effect as the algae were eaten before they managed to grow and shade the eelgrass,” says researcher and biologist Johan Eklöf, who headed up the study. “But when we simultaneously simulated the effects of fishing and removed the effective but vulnerable herbivor Grammarus locusta, the algae took over the ecosystem – especially in the warmer conditions.”

The researchers believe that we should be concerned about the results.
“Most management is based on the assumption that we afford to lose the most sensitive species because other, more resilient species will take their place,” says Johan Eklöf. “But this may not be the case with future climate changes, as it can reduce the net efficiency of the resilient species – without directly affecting them.”

However, the researchers are also careful to point out that there is still hope if society does decide to take action.

“If we protect the local biodiversity we still have, and restore the diversity we’ve lost, by for example protecting predatory fish stocks in coastal areas and reducing nutrient loading, then we’ll probably be able to increase the ecosystems’ resilience to climate change.”

Contact: Johan Eklöf
+ 46 707-38 43 15
johane@ecology.su.se

Helena Aaberg | idw
Further information:
http://www.gu.se

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht The body's street sweepers
18.12.2017 | Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München

nachricht Life on the edge prepares plants for climate change
18.12.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Entwicklungsbiologie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Error-free into the Quantum Computer Age

A study carried out by an international team of researchers and published in the journal Physical Review X shows that ion-trap technologies available today are suitable for building large-scale quantum computers. The scientists introduce trapped-ion quantum error correction protocols that detect and correct processing errors.

In order to reach their full potential, today’s quantum computer prototypes have to meet specific criteria: First, they have to be made bigger, which means...

Im Focus: Search for planets with Carmenes successful

German and Spanish researchers plan, build and use modern spectrograph

Since 2016, German and Spanish researchers, among them scientists from the University of Göttingen, have been hunting for exoplanets with the “Carmenes”...

Im Focus: First-of-its-kind chemical oscillator offers new level of molecular control

DNA molecules that follow specific instructions could offer more precise molecular control of synthetic chemical systems, a discovery that opens the door for engineers to create molecular machines with new and complex behaviors.

Researchers have created chemical amplifiers and a chemical oscillator using a systematic method that has the potential to embed sophisticated circuit...

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

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

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

The body's street sweepers

18.12.2017 | Life Sciences

Fast flowing heat in layered material heterostructures

18.12.2017 | Materials Sciences

Life on the edge prepares plants for climate change

18.12.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>