Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Machine learning helps predict worldwide plant-conservation priorities

04.12.2018

New analytics approach identifies 15,000 at-risk species

There are many organizations monitoring endangered species such as elephants and tigers, but what about the millions of other species on the planet -- ones that most people have never heard of or don't think about?


The map shows predicted levels of risk to more than 150,000 plant species. Using vast amounts of open-access data, researchers were able to identify high-risk plants worldwide. Warmer colors denote areas with larger numbers of potentially at-risk species, while cooler colors denote areas with low overall predicted risk.

Credit: Anahí Espíndola and Tara Pelletier

How do scientists assess the threat level of, say, the plicate rocksnail, Caribbean spiny lobster or Torrey pine tree?

A new approach co-developed at The Ohio State University uses data analytics and machine learning to predict the conservation status of more than 150,000 plants worldwide.

Results suggest that more than 15,000 species likely qualify as near-threatened, vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered.

The approach will allow conservationists and researchers to identify the species most at risk, and also to pinpoint the geographic areas where those species are highly concentrated.

The study appears online today (Dec. 3, 2018) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Plants form the basic habitat that all species rely on, so it made sense to start with plants," said Bryan Carstens, a professor of evolution, ecology and organismal biology at Ohio State.

"A lot of times in conservation, people focus on big, charismatic animals, but it's actually habitat that matters. We can protect all the lions, tigers and elephants we want, but they have to have a place to live in."

Currently, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature -- which produces the world's most comprehensive inventory of threatened species (the "Red List") -- more or less works on a species-by-species basis, requiring more resources and specialized work than is available to accurately assign a conservation-risk category to every species.

Of the nearly 100,000 species currently on the Red List, plants are among the least represented, with only 5 percent of all currently known species accounted for.

The new approach co-developed by Carstens and lead author Tara Pelletier, a former Ohio State graduate student who is now an assistant professor of biology at Radford University, aims to expand the number of plant species included.

The research team built their predictive model using open-access data from the Global Biodiversity Information Facility and TRY Plant Trait Database.

Their algorithm compared data from those sources with the Red List to find risk patterns in habitat features, weather patterns, physical characteristics and other criteria likely to put species in danger of extinction.

A map of the data shows that at-risk plant species tend to cluster in regions with high native biodiversity, such as southwestern Australia, Central American rainforests and southeastern coast of the U.S., where more species compete for resources.

"What this allowed us to do is basically make a prediction about what sorts of conservation risks are faced by species that people haven't done these detailed assessments on," Carsten said.

"This isn't a substitute for more-detailed assessments, but it's a first pass that might help identify species that should be prioritized and where people should focus their attention."

Carsten said the biggest challenge was collecting data on such a large scale, noting it took several months of quality-control checking to ensure the team was working with reliable figures.

The new technique was created to be repeatable by other scientists, whether on a global scale like this study or for a single genus or ecosystem.

###

The study was supported by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, DIVERSITAS/Future Earth and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research.

Other authors were Anahí Espíndola of The University of Maryland and Jack Sullivan and David Tank of the University of Idaho.

CONTACT: Bryan Carstens, 614-292-6587; Carstens.12@osu.edu

Written by Denise Blough, Blough.24@osu.edu

Media Contact

Bryan Carstens
Carstens.12@osu.edu
614-292-6587

 @osuresearch

http://news.osu.edu 

Bryan Carstens | EurekAlert!
Further information:
https://news.osu.edu/machine-learning-helps-predict-worldwide-plant-conservation-priorities/
http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1804098115

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Five-point plan to integrate recreational fishers into fisheries and nature conservation policy
20.03.2019 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)

nachricht Rain is important for how carbon dioxide affects grasslands
06.03.2019 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Magnetic micro-boats

Nano- and microtechnology are promising candidates not only for medical applications such as drug delivery but also for the creation of little robots or flexible integrated sensors. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) have created magnetic microparticles, with a newly developed method, that could pave the way for building micro-motors or guiding drugs in the human body to a target, like a tumor. The preparation of such structures as well as their remote-control can be regulated using magnetic fields and therefore can find application in an array of domains.

The magnetic properties of a material control how this material responds to the presence of a magnetic field. Iron oxide is the main component of rust but also...

Im Focus: Self-healing coating made of corn starch makes small scratches disappear through heat

Due to the special arrangement of its molecules, a new coating made of corn starch is able to repair small scratches by itself through heat: The cross-linking via ring-shaped molecules makes the material mobile, so that it compensates for the scratches and these disappear again.

Superficial micro-scratches on the car body or on other high-gloss surfaces are harmless, but annoying. Especially in the luxury segment such surfaces are...

Im Focus: Stellar cartography

The Potsdam Echelle Polarimetric and Spectroscopic Instrument (PEPSI) at the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) in Arizona released its first image of the surface magnetic field of another star. In a paper in the European journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, the PEPSI team presents a Zeeman- Doppler-Image of the surface of the magnetically active star II Pegasi.

A special technique allows astronomers to resolve the surfaces of faraway stars. Those are otherwise only seen as point sources, even in the largest telescopes...

Im Focus: Heading towards a tsunami of light

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have proposed a way to create a completely new source of radiation. Ultra-intense light pulses consist of the motion of a single wave and can be described as a tsunami of light. The strong wave can be used to study interactions between matter and light in a unique way. Their research is now published in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.

"This source of radiation lets us look at reality through a new angle - it is like twisting a mirror and discovering something completely different," says...

Im Focus: Revealing the secret of the vacuum for the first time

New research group at the University of Jena combines theory and experiment to demonstrate for the first time certain physical processes in a quantum vacuum

For most people, a vacuum is an empty space. Quantum physics, on the other hand, assumes that even in this lowest-energy state, particles and antiparticles...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

International Modelica Conference with 330 visitors from 21 countries at OTH Regensburg

11.03.2019 | Event News

Selection Completed: 580 Young Scientists from 88 Countries at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

01.03.2019 | Event News

LightMAT 2019 – 3rd International Conference on Light Materials – Science and Technology

28.02.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

To proliferate or not to proliferate

21.03.2019 | Life Sciences

Magnetic micro-boats

21.03.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

Motorless pumps and self-regulating valves made from ultrathin film

21.03.2019 | HANNOVER MESSE

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>