Altered or new environmental conditions, such as those brought about by shifts in human land use and climate change, impose challenges on living organisms. This can drive species to extinction if they fail to adapt or adjust their geographic distribution. Individual differences play a key role here, and it seems that less is not always more.
A new study by researchers from Linnaeus University published in Ecography demonstrates that a higher degree of among individual variation is beneficial to populations and species. These results will allow for more efficient protection and restoration of biodiversity, the authors say.
It has been suggested that higher levels of phenotypic and genetic variation among individuals should promote the ecological and evolutionary success of populations and species in the face of environmental change, but this proposition has not previously been systematically evaluated.
Researchers from Linnaeus University in Sweden reviewed previous studies of plants, animals and bacteria to determine whether the predictions from theory are supported overall by results from experimental and phylogeny-based comparative investigations.
Lead author Professor Anders Forsman elaborates: “our review provides strong evidence that more variable populations are less vulnerable to environmental changes, show decreased fluctuations in population size, have superior establishment success, larger distribution ranges, and are less extinction prone, compared with less variable populations or species”.
A key finding is that variation is more beneficial if conditions are harsh. Study co-author Dr Lena Wennersten explains: “some of the experimental studies included in our review comprise two or more environmental treatments. These experiments indicate that the benefits of diversity are generally expressed more strongly under stressful than under benign conditions”.
The review also uncovered that the relationship linking benefits to diversity is more often linear than curvilinear. But there were exceptions to this pattern. Some studies point to the existence of an optimal level of diversity, and others suggest that the benefits of diversity follow the law of diminishing returns.
These consequences of variation are relevant for conservation work aimed at protection and restoration of biodiversity. For instance, the shape of the relationship that links diversity to population fitness informs how to best allocate conservation resources between competing needs, according to the authors.
The findings in the review align well with the notion that there is strength in diversity. However, the authors also identify important knowledge gaps and issues in need of future investigation. Anders Forsman concludes: “there is still ample opportunity for progress and new discoveries. We hope that our study will spur further interest in this rapidly growing and important area of research”.
Forsman, A. and Wennersten, L. 2015. Inter-individual variation promotes ecological success of populations and species: evidence from experimental and comparative studies. Ecography, DOI: 10.1111/ecog.01357
Anders Forsman, professor, e-mail: Anders.Forsman@LNU.se; phone: +46-(0)480-44 61 73; cellular phone: +46-(0)706-27 27 38
Lena Wennersten, PhD, e-mail: Lena.Wennersten@LNU.se; phone: +46-(0)480-44 62 27; cellular phone: +46-(0)733-26 18 51
Pressofficer Christina Dahlgren, +46-(0)470-70 85 51; cellular phone: +46-(0)70-572 26 56
Anders Forsman and Lena Wennersten are members of the Linnaeus University Centre for Ecology and Evolution in Microbial model Systems, EEMiS. http://lnu.se/lnuc/eemis
Anders Forsman’s personal webpage: http://lnu.se/personal/anders.forsman
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ecog.01357/abstract Link to the article
Christina Dahlgren | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
What happens in the cell nucleus after fertilization
06.12.2016 | Helmholtz Zentrum München - Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt
Researchers uncover protein-based “cancer signature”
05.12.2016 | Universität Basel
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
06.12.2016 | Materials Sciences
06.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
06.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering