Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Predicting species abundance in the face of habitat loss

26.09.2006
Habitat loss poses the greatest threat to the survival of a species, and often precipitates the demise of top predators and wide-ranging animals, like the Siberian tiger and the orangutan.

Any hope of recovering such critically endangered species depends on understanding what drives changes in population size following habitat contraction. In a new study published in PLoS Biology, Nicholas Gotelli and Aaron Ellison test the relative contributions of habitat contraction, keystone species effects, and food-web interactions on species abundance, and provide experimental evidence that trophic interactions exert a dominant effect. Until now, direct evidence that trophic interactions play such an important role has been lacking, in part because manipulating an intact food web has proven experimentally intractable, and in part because these different modeling frameworks have not been explicitly compared.

Gotelli and Ellison overcame such technical limitations by using the carnivorous pitcher plant (Sarracenia purpurea) and its associated food web as a model for studying what regulates abundance in shrinking habitats. Every year, the pitcher plant, found in bogs and swamps throughout southern Canada and the eastern United States, grows six to 12 tubular leaves that collect enough water to support an entire aquatic food web. The pitcher plant food web starts with ants, flies, and other arthropods unlucky enough to fall into its trap. Midges and sarcophagid fly larvae “shred” and chew on the hapless insect. This shredded detritus is further broken down by bacteria, which in turn are consumed by protozoa, rotifers, and mites. Pitcher plant mosquito larvae feed on bacteria, protozoa, and rotifers. Older, larger sarcophagid fly larvae also feed on rotifers as well as on younger, smaller mosquito larvae.

Working with 50 pitcher plants in a bog in Vermont, Gotelli and Ellison subjected the plants to one of five experimental treatments, in which they manipulated habitat size (by changing the volume of water in the leaves), simplified the trophic structure (by removing the top trophic level—larvae of the dipterans fly, midge, and mosquito), did some combination of the two, or none of the above (the control condition). Dipteran larvae and water were measured as each treatment was maintained; both were replaced in the control condition and more water was added in the habitat expansion treatment. These treatments mimic the kinds of changes that occur in nature as habitat area shrinks and top predators disappear from communities.

The best predictors of abundance were models that incorporated trophic structure—including the “mosquito keystone model.” This model accurately reflected the pitcher plant food web, with mosquito larvae preying on rotifers, and sarcophagid flies preying on mosquito larvae. “Bottom-up” food-web models (in which links flow from prey to predator) predicted that changes in bacteria population size influence protozoa abundances, which in turn affect mosquito numbers, and that changes in bacteria abundance also affect mite numbers, which impact rotifer abundance. This scenario lends support to the model of a Sarracenia food web in which each link in the chain performs a specialized service in breaking down the arthropod prey that is used by the next species in the processing chain.

With over 200 million acres of the world’s forestlands destroyed in the 1990s alone, and an estimated 40% increase in the human population by 2050, a growing number of species will be forced to cope with shrinking habitat. Instead of trying to determine how individual species might respond to habitat loss, Gotelli and Ellison argue that incorporating trophic structure into ecological models may yield more-accurate predictions of species abundance—a critical component of species restoration strategies.

Citation: Gotelli NJ, Ellison AM (2006) Food-web models predict species abundances in response to habitat change. PLoS Biol 4(10): e324. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0040324.

Andrew Hyde | alfa
Further information:
http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.0040324
http://www.plosbiology.org

Further reports about: Ellison Gotelli Predator abundance habitat larvae mosquito larvae rotifer trophic

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht A novel socio-ecological approach helps identifying suitable wolf habitats
17.02.2017 | Universität Zürich

nachricht New, ultra-flexible probes form reliable, scar-free integration with the brain
16.02.2017 | University of Texas at Austin

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Biocompatible 3-D tracking system has potential to improve robot-assisted surgery

17.02.2017 | Medical Engineering

Real-time MRI analysis powered by supercomputers

17.02.2017 | Medical Engineering

Antibiotic effective against drug-resistant bacteria in pediatric skin infections

17.02.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>