Communities rich in species are substantially healthier and more productive than those depleted of species. An international group of scientists has solved this long-standing ecological riddle using new scientific techniques for analysing complex data of grassland ecosystems worldwide.
The study with participation of the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg is published today in the current issue of “Nature". It is the most comprehensive study up to now, which shows this effect in natural, un-manipulated ecosystems.
The Doane audubon Spring Creek Prairie site in Nebraska is a typical grassland which covered during former times great areas of the Midwest of the United States.
Photo: Ramesh Laungani, Doane College
The biodiversity and productivity of ecosystems are important to human well-being and, at the same time, are highly impacted by human activities. The relationship between biodiversity and productivity remains a fiercely debated topic due partly to numerous, often conflicting underlying theories.
Biodiversity has been hypothesized to be of critical importance for the stability of natural ecosystems and their abilities to provide positive benefits such as oxygen production, soil genesis, and water detoxification to plant and animal communities, as well as to human society.
Many of the efforts of conservation agencies around the world are driven by the assumption that this hypothesis is true. While theoretical studies have supported this claim, scientists have struggled for the last half-century to clearly isolate such an effect in the real world.
To determine this the scientists used data collected for this research by a global consortium, the Nutrient Network, from over a thousand grassland plots spanning five continents. The network is coordinated by the University of Minnesota and examines natural meadows and pastures ecosystems at more than 70 locations worldwide research.
In Germany plots near Papenburg (Lower Saxony), Jena (Thuringia) and Bad Lauchstädt (Saxony-Anhalt) are part of the network. For the study, the team evaluated data from 1126 plots on 39 grasslands. Using recent advances in analytical methods, the group was able to isolate the biodiversity effect from the effects of other processes, including processes that can reduce diversity. “This study shows that you cannot have sustainable, productive ecosystems without maintaining biodiversity in the landscape,” says Professor James Grace of the US Geological Survey, who led the study.
A key finding of this paper is the positive effect that greater plant species diversity had on biomass production; this confirms extensive experimental results, but showing this effect in natural, un-manipulated systems has been a challenge until now.
“Impressively, the multivariate structural equation model explained more than 60% of the variation is plant species richness in these natural ecosystems. Furthermore, the underlying environmental drivers of biodiversity and richness differed, which has important implications for understanding diversity and productivity patterns at a global scale”, says Professor Stanley Harpole of UFZ/iDiv/MLU. He is one of the founders of the Nutrient Network.
The researchers found also strong and independent influences of macroclimate and soils on richness and productivity. If climate change leads to reduced species or genetic diversity, which is a real possibility, that then could lead to a reduced capacity for ecosystems to respond to additional stresses.
The new published results provide a rigorous framework towards experimentally testing the causal mechanisms that allow species to coexist and for ecosystems to provide the services that we depend on. A take-home message is that only by using theory-based multivariate causal modelling approaches, can we move towards predicting the multiple and interacting effects of human-driven global change.
James B. Grace, T. Michael Anderson, Eric W. Seabloom, Elizabeth T. Borer, Peter B. Adler, W. Stanley Harpole, Yann Hautier, Helmut Hillebrand, Eric M. Lind, Meelis Pärtel, Jonathan D. Bakker, Yvonne M. Buckley, Michael J. Crawley, Ellen I. Damschen, Kendi F. Davies, Philip A. Fay, Jennifer Firn, Daniel S. Gruner, Andy Hector, Johannes M. H. Knops, Andrew S. MacDougall, Brett A. Melbourne, John W. Morgan, John L. Orrock, Suzanne M. Prober & Melinda D. Smith (2016): Integrative modelling reveals mechanisms linking productivity and plant species richness. Nature (14 Jan 2016). doi:10.1038/nature16524
The study was founded by the US Geological Survey, the National Science Foundation (NSF) (Research Coordination Network (NSF-DEB-1042132) & Long Term Ecological Research (NSF-DEB-1234162 to Cedar Creek LTER) programs) as well as the UMN Institute on the Environment (DG-0001-13).
The current issue of Nature published also a comment (N&V article):
Kevin Gross (2016): Biodiversity and productivity entwined. Nature (14 Jan 2016). doi:10.1038/nature16867
Nutrient Network (NutNet)
Prof. Stanley W. Harpole
Physiological Diversity / Department head at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), Head of Research Group at the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and Professor at the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
Tel.: +49-(0)341-97-33171, -33152
Prof. James Grace
US Geological Survey, Lafayette, Louisiana, United States
Tel: +1 337 266 8632
Vic Hines, US Geological Survey, Public Affairs Contacts for Press Inquiries
Tel. +1 813-855-3125 http://www.usgs.gov/newsroom/contacts.asp
Tilo Arnhold/ Stefan Bernhardt, public relations at iDiv
Tel.: +49-(0)341-9733-197, -109
Susanne Hufe, public relations at UFZ
Manuela Bank-Zillmann, public relations at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
Tel.: +49-(0)345-55-21004, - 21438
About the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv)
iDiv is a central facility of the University of Leipzig within the meaning of Section 92 (1) of the Act on Academic Freedom in Higher Education in Saxony (Sächsisches Hochschulfreiheitsgesetz, SächsHSFG). It is run together with the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg and the Friedrich Schiller University Jena, as well as in cooperation with the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ.
The following non-university research institutions are involved as cooperation partners: the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry (MPI BGC), the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology (MPI CE), the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (MPI EVA), the Leibniz Institute DSMZ–German Collection of Microorganisms and Cell Cultures, the Leibniz Institute of Plant Biochemistry (IPB), the Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK) and the Leibniz Institute Senckenberg Museum of Natural History Görlitz (SMNG). http://www.idiv.de
Tilo Arnhold | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
Symbiotic bacteria: from hitchhiker to beetle bodyguard
28.04.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis
28.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Grenzflächen- und Bioverfahrenstechnik IGB
More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.
Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...
Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.
"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...
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...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
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.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
28.04.2017 | Event News
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering
28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences
28.04.2017 | Life Sciences