Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

How nature creates forest diversity

07.03.2017

Forest ecologists have long sought to understand why so many different species of trees can coexist in the same niche. A modeling study is now providing clues.

Forests, especially tropical forests, are home to thousands of species of trees—sometimes tens to hundreds of tree species in the same forest—a level of biodiversity ecologists have struggled to explain.


© Dariush M | Shutterstock

Quelle: IIASA

In a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), researchers at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) and their colleagues in Australia are now providing a first model that elucidates the ecological and evolutionary mechanisms underlying these natural patterns.

“Forests in particular and vegetation in general are central for understanding terrestrial biodiversity, ecosystem services, and carbon dynamics,” says IIASA Evolution and Ecology Program Director Ulf Dieckmann. Forest plants grow to different heights and at different speeds, with the tallest trees absorbing the greatest amounts of sunlight, and shorter trees and shrubs making do with the lower levels of sunlight that filter through the canopy.

These slow-growing shade-tolerant species come in an unexpectedly large number of varieties—in fact, far more than ecological models have been able to explain until now.

Traditional ecological theory holds that each species on this planet occupies its own niche, or environment, where it can uniquely thrive. However, identifying separate niches for each and every species has been difficult, and may well be impossible, especially for the observed plethora of shade-tolerant tropical trees. This raises the fundamental question: are separate niches really always needed for species coexistence?

In the new study, the researchers combined tree physiology, ecology, and evolution to construct a new model in which tree species and their niches coevolve in mutual dependence. While previous models had not been able to predict a high biodiversity of shade-tolerant species to coexist over long periods of time, the new model demonstrates how physiological differences and competition for light naturally lead to a large number of species, just as in nature.

At the same time, the new model shows that fast-growing shade-intolerant tree species evolve to occupy narrow and well-separated niches, whereas slow-growing shade-tolerant tree species have evolved to occupy a very broad niche that offers enough room for a whole continuum of different species to coexist—again, just as observed in nature.

Providing a more comprehensive understanding of forest ecosystems, the resulting model may prove useful for researchers working on climate change and forest management. Dieckmann says, “We hope this work will result in a better understanding of human impacts on forests, including timber extraction, fire control, habitat fragmentation, and climate change.”

The study was led by Daniel Falster at Macquarie University in Australia, who was a participant in the 2006 IIASA Young Scientists Summer Program.

Reference:
Falster DS, Brännström Å, Westoby M, Dieckmann U (2017). Multi-trait successional forest dynamics enable diverse competitive coexistence. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). doi: 10.1073/pnas.1610206114.

Weitere Informationen:

https://t.co/eiNfJ8HLLC

Katherine Leitzell | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Cereals use chemical defenses in a multifunctional manner against different herbivores
06.12.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für chemische Ökologie

nachricht Can rice filter water from ag fields?
05.12.2018 | American Society of Agronomy

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: New megalibrary approach proves useful for the rapid discovery of new materials

Northwestern discovery tool is thousands of times faster than conventional screening methods

Different eras of civilization are defined by the discovery of new materials, as new materials drive new capabilities. And yet, identifying the best material...

Im Focus: Data storage using individual molecules

Researchers from the University of Basel have reported a new method that allows the physical state of just a few atoms or molecules within a network to be controlled. It is based on the spontaneous self-organization of molecules into extensive networks with pores about one nanometer in size. In the journal ‘small’, the physicists reported on their investigations, which could be of particular importance for the development of new storage devices.

Around the world, researchers are attempting to shrink data storage devices to achieve as large a storage capacity in as small a space as possible. In almost...

Im Focus: Data use draining your battery? Tiny device to speed up memory while also saving power

The more objects we make "smart," from watches to entire buildings, the greater the need for these devices to store and retrieve massive amounts of data quickly without consuming too much power.

Millions of new memory cells could be part of a computer chip and provide that speed and energy savings, thanks to the discovery of a previously unobserved...

Im Focus: An energy-efficient way to stay warm: Sew high-tech heating patches to your clothes

Personal patches could reduce energy waste in buildings, Rutgers-led study says

What if, instead of turning up the thermostat, you could warm up with high-tech, flexible patches sewn into your clothes - while significantly reducing your...

Im Focus: Lethal combination: Drug cocktail turns off the juice to cancer cells

A widely used diabetes medication combined with an antihypertensive drug specifically inhibits tumor growth – this was discovered by researchers from the University of Basel’s Biozentrum two years ago. In a follow-up study, recently published in “Cell Reports”, the scientists report that this drug cocktail induces cancer cell death by switching off their energy supply.

The widely used anti-diabetes drug metformin not only reduces blood sugar but also has an anti-cancer effect. However, the metformin dose commonly used in the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

ICTM Conference 2019: Digitization emerges as an engineering trend for turbomachinery construction

12.12.2018 | Event News

New Plastics Economy Investor Forum - Meeting Point for Innovations

10.12.2018 | Event News

EGU 2019 meeting: Media registration now open

06.12.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

New megalibrary approach proves useful for the rapid discovery of new materials

19.12.2018 | Materials Sciences

Artificial intelligence meets materials science

19.12.2018 | Materials Sciences

Gut microbiome regulates the intestinal immune system, researchers find

19.12.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>