Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Revealed: the secrets of successful ecosystems

13.03.2008
The productivity and biodiversity of an ecosystem is significantly affected by the rate at which organisms move between different parts of the ecosystem, according to new research out today (13 March 2008) in Nature.

Scientists hope that understanding the mechanisms which determine the diversity and productivity of ecosystems will help ecologists and conservationists to develop strategies to ensure that conservation areas are highly productive and rich in biodiversity.

The study used a lab-based artificial ecosystem of communities of bacteria to examine what happens when the bacteria move around and evolve to live in different parts of the ecosystem over the course of hundreds of generations. The scientists measured the effect this dispersal of species has on the productivity and biodiversity of the ecosystem over all.

'Productive' ecosystems are defined as those that support a large total amount of living matter, from tiny microbes up to plants and animals. Scientists refer to this measurement of the amount of life present as an ecosystem's 'biomass'. A number of studies in the last decade have shown that ecosystems that have a high biodiversity - meaning they are rich in variety of species - are also highly productive over short time scales, but until now the underlying processes creating this link between high levels of biodiversity and productivity over evolutionary time scales have not been understood.

The scientific team behind this new research found that both the biodiversity and productivity of an ecosystem are at a peak when there is an intermediate rate of dispersal of species - not too little and not too much - between different parts of the ecosystem.

When there is little or no dispersal, populations of species that remain in harsh areas of an ecosystem are unable to adapt to their environment due to a low population size and lack of genetic variation. Conversely, when there is too much dispersal in an ecosystem, species evolve to be 'generalists' that can survive in many habitats, but fail to thrive in any given one.

Dr Craig Maclean, one of the authors of the study at the NERC Centre for Population Biology at Imperial College London, explains that an intermediate rate of dispersal creates a 'happy medium' wherein species move around enough to ensure that harsh environments are adapted to, but not so much that they become generalists.

He says: "Dispersal constantly brings new individuals and new genes into harsh environments, which is essential for evolutionary adaptation to difficult environments. When species adapt to new environments it increases the productivity of the ecosystem and it can increase the biodiversity, as movement between different parts of an ecosystem provides more 'niches' for species to exploit."

To carry out the study, the research team created an artificial ecosystem for the bacterium Pseudomonas fluorescens. The ecosystem consisted of 95 different areas, each one containing a different food source. The scientists introduced the bacteria - which could eat approximately half of the 95 food sources - to the ecosystem, and then began to manipulate the rate at which the bacteria dispersed between the 95 different areas.

Every day during the experiment, the team measured the biomass in the ecosystem as an indicator of the ecosystem's productivity, and found that the levels of biomass were highest when there was an intermediate dispersal rate.

After 400 generations, the team isolated bacteria from the ecosystem and measured the ability of the bacteria to grow on each of the food sources. Using this data, the team were able to measure the diversity of the ecosystem, as it indicated how many different species had evolved from the bacteria which were originally introduced to the experiment, which could only eat half of the food sources available.

The research was carried out by an international team, led by Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique scientists at Montpellier 2 University in France, in collaboration with Imperial College London and the University of Liverpool.

Danielle Reeves | alfa
Further information:
http://www.imperial.ac.uk

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Sinking groundwater levels threaten the vitality of riverine ecosystems
04.10.2019 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

nachricht Protecting our climate, the environment and nature is the focus of a new communications project
04.10.2019 | IDEA TV

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: Novel Material for Shipbuilding

A new research project at the TH Mittelhessen focusses on the development of a novel light weight design concept for leisure boats and yachts. Professor Stephan Marzi from the THM Institute of Mechanics and Materials collaborates with Krake Catamarane, which is a shipyard located in Apolda, Thuringia.

The project is set up in an international cooperation with Professor Anders Biel from Karlstad University in Sweden and the Swedish company Lamera from...

Im Focus: Controlling superconducting regions within an exotic metal

Superconductivity has fascinated scientists for many years since it offers the potential to revolutionize current technologies. Materials only become superconductors - meaning that electrons can travel in them with no resistance - at very low temperatures. These days, this unique zero resistance superconductivity is commonly found in a number of technologies, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Future technologies, however, will harness the total synchrony of electronic behavior in superconductors - a property called the phase. There is currently a...

Im Focus: How Do the Strongest Magnets in the Universe Form?

How do some neutron stars become the strongest magnets in the Universe? A German-British team of astrophysicists has found a possible answer to the question of how these so-called magnetars form. Researchers from Heidelberg, Garching, and Oxford used large computer simulations to demonstrate how the merger of two stars creates strong magnetic fields. If such stars explode in supernovae, magnetars could result.

How Do the Strongest Magnets in the Universe Form?

Im Focus: Liquifying a rocky exoplanet

A hot, molten Earth would be around 5% larger than its solid counterpart. This is the result of a study led by researchers at the University of Bern. The difference between molten and solid rocky planets is important for the search of Earth-like worlds beyond our Solar System and the understanding of Earth itself.

Rocky exoplanets that are around Earth-size are comparatively small, which makes them incredibly difficult to detect and characterise using telescopes. What...

Im Focus: Axion particle spotted in solid-state crystal

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Physics of Solids in Dresden, Princeton University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences have spotted a famously elusive particle: The axion – first predicted 42 years ago as an elementary particle in extensions of the standard model of particle physics.

The team found signatures of axion particles composed of Weyl-type electrons (Weyl fermions) in the correlated Weyl semimetal (TaSe₄)₂I. At room temperature,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

International Symposium on Functional Materials for Electrolysis, Fuel Cells and Metal-Air Batteries

02.10.2019 | Event News

NEXUS 2020: Relationships Between Architecture and Mathematics

02.10.2019 | Event News

Optical Technologies: International Symposium „Future Optics“ in Hannover

19.09.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

How to control friction in topological insulators

14.10.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

The shelf life of pyrite

14.10.2019 | Earth Sciences

Shipment tracking for "fat parcels" in the body

14.10.2019 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>