Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Biodiversity Depends on Historical Plant and Animal Relationships

25.07.2003


Some thirty million species now live on Earth, but their spatial distribution is highly uneven. Biologists since Darwin have been asking why. Now, scientists funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), have discovered part of the answer: how plant and animal communities originally assembled is a predictor of future biodiversity and ecosystem productivity.


The experiment using microorganisms including the ciliates shown here indicates that historical events produce a remarkable variety of productivity-biodiversity relationships--a finding that would be difficult to reveal in natural ecosystems composed of large, slowly responding macroorganisms.

Photo Credit: Wilhelm Foissner, Andreas Zankl, University of Salzburg, Austria



"Despite its importance, species diversity has proven difficult to understand, in large part because multiple processes operating at various scales interact to influence diversity patterns," said biologist Tadashi Fukami of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, lead author of a paper on the subject published in the July 24th issue of the journal Nature. "On evolutionary scales, species diversity is a result of speciation and extinction. But evolutionary processes are variable across space, interactive over time, and consequently, hard to identify. On ecological scales, diversity is a result of community assembly, how species join ecological communities over time."

Fukami and co-author Peter Morin of Rutgers University in New Jersey attempt to provide a novel ecological perspective from which to view diversity patterns. They argue that we can better understand diversity by considering how the history of community assembly interacts with other ecological variables to affect diversity.


Their paper addresses a topic of central importance in ecology, specifically the cause of different relationships between productivity and biodiversity observed in natural ecosystems. Ecologists define productivity broadly as the amount of energy available for ecosystem development in a given location. In this experiment, productivity was manipulated by changing the nutrient concentration of growth medium in ecological communities of microorganisms housed in a laboratory.

"Fukami and Morin’s study adds an important, new piece to the ecological puzzle that relates ecosystem productivity to species diversity," said Saran Twombly, program director in NSF’s division of environmental biology. "The sequence of species used to create a community has a large effect on the productivity-diversity relationship. This novel result contributes substantially to our understanding of community ecology."

We know that the relationship between productivity and biodiversity takes various forms in nature, presenting a difficult challenge in understanding biodiversity patterns, said Fukami. "Using a rigorous experimental approach, we show in this paper that productivity-biodiversity relationships depend critically on the history of community assembly, in particular on the specific sequence of species arrival from a regional pool of colonists." The results argue that community assembly processes must be considered along with resource use, disturbance, and other factors that determine the ultimate form of productivity-diversity relationships. A key point is that these fundamental patterns are unlikely to have a single common explanation. Although this study was not based on a particular ecosystem, the study shows that historical effects are possible and may explain patterns observed in ecosystems.

These findings will be of broad interest to ecologists, environmental scientists, ecological economists, and others interested in the causes of biodiversity patterns, Fukami believes. "Scientific understanding of how biodiversity responds to productivity is important to the conservation and management of natural ecosystems that are experiencing nutrient enrichment by human activities [such as increased input of phosphorus and nitrogen into lakes, ponds, and estuaries]," said Fukami.

Cheryl Dybas | National Science Foundation
Further information:
http://www.nsf.gov
http://www.nsf.gov/od/lpa
http://www.nsf.gov/sbe/srs/stats.htm

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Closing in on advanced prostate cancer
13.12.2017 | Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona)

nachricht Visualizing single molecules in whole cells with a new spin
13.12.2017 | Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

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...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

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

A whole-body approach to understanding chemosensory cells

13.12.2017 | Health and Medicine

Water without windows: Capturing water vapor inside an electron microscope

13.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Cellular Self-Digestion Process Triggers Autoimmune Disease

13.12.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>