Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Genetic diversity necessary for optimal ecosystem functioning, according to UGA research

20.08.2002


Though it has long been known by scientists that an ecosystem needs different kinds of plants and animals for optimal functioning, University of Georgia scientists have recently found that the genetic diversity of species within a habitat also affects ecosystem processes.



"It is not just the quantity of species diversity that matters, it is also the quality of genetic diversity," said lead author Mike Madritch, an ecology doctoral student at UGA. Madritch studied carbon and nitrogen fluxes during decomposition of leaf litter and found a significant link between nutrient output and the genetic variation of the leaves.

The study was co-authored with Mark Hunter, associate professor of ecology at UGA, and published this week in the Ecological Society of America’s journal, Ecology. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.


The study was conducted on a turkey oak (Quercus laevis Walter) sandhills community at UGA’s Savannah River Ecology Laboratory in Aiken, SC where Madritch and Hunter analyzed the decomposition of nine different single tree litter treatments and one mixed treatment that contained litter from all nine trees of the same species. They found a marked difference in the amount of carbon and nitrogen released based upon the parentage of the leaf litter.

"Diversity matters," said Madritch. "Our study shows that bringing a species population back from the brink of extinction to its original levels would not have the same effect on the environment as if the species never faced being endangered in the first place. When you build back from an endangered population, you necessarily are building from a limited gene pool, and we found that the variety in the genetic make-up matters to the system."

The researchers found not only that a reduction in genetic biodiversity affects the way an ecosystem functions, but they also found that a loss in genetic diversity reduces the predictability of how an ecosystem will work.

Single tree litter treatments did not always yield less carbon and nitrogen than the mixed treatment. Sometimes the single tree treatments produced more nutrients and sometimes they produced less, but the researchers say the nutrients were always significantly different than the mixed-litter treatment.

"The alarming part of this discovery is that you cannot predict the effect that reduced genetic biodiversity will have on an ecosystem," said Hunter. "Therefore, deforestation is like playing Russian roulette with our future. We know that relying upon fewer trees to recycle nutrients will make a difference, but we don’t know what kind of difference. It’s a chance I don’t think is worth taking."

Madritch and Hunter are convinced that conserving genetic diversity within a species is as important as conserving species diversity for maintaining ecosystem functions. "This research is especially important in the current mass extinction period," said Hunter. "Plants capture the energy that drives the planet. By continuing to destroy plant habitats, we reduce the available gene pool. In the end it could harm the biggest ecosystem of all: planet Earth."

Kim Carlyle | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.uga.edu/

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Loss of habitat causes double damage to species richness
02.04.2019 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig

nachricht Deep decarbonization of industry is possible with innovations
25.03.2019 | Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung (ISI)

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: Explosion on Jupiter-sized star 10 times more powerful than ever seen on our sun

A stellar flare 10 times more powerful than anything seen on our sun has burst from an ultracool star almost the same size as Jupiter

  • Coolest and smallest star to produce a superflare found
  • Star is a tenth of the radius of our Sun
  • Researchers led by University of Warwick could only see...

Im Focus: Quantum simulation more stable than expected

A localization phenomenon boosts the accuracy of solving quantum many-body problems with quantum computers which are otherwise challenging for conventional computers. This brings such digital quantum simulation within reach on quantum devices available today.

Quantum computers promise to solve certain computational problems exponentially faster than any classical machine. “A particularly promising application is the...

Im Focus: Largest, fastest array of microscopic 'traffic cops' for optical communications

The technology could revolutionize how information travels through data centers and artificial intelligence networks

Engineers at the University of California, Berkeley have built a new photonic switch that can control the direction of light passing through optical fibers...

Im Focus: A long-distance relationship in femtoseconds

Physicists observe how electron-hole pairs drift apart at ultrafast speed, but still remain strongly bound.

Modern electronics relies on ultrafast charge motion on ever shorter length scales. Physicists from Regensburg and Gothenburg have now succeeded in resolving a...

Im Focus: Researchers 3D print metamaterials with novel optical properties

Engineers create novel optical devices, including a moth eye-inspired omnidirectional microwave antenna

A team of engineers at Tufts University has developed a series of 3D printed metamaterials with unique microwave or optical properties that go beyond what is...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Revered mathematicians and computer scientists converge with 200 young researchers in Heidelberg!

17.04.2019 | Event News

First dust conference in the Central Asian part of the earth’s dust belt

15.04.2019 | Event News

Fraunhofer FHR at the IEEE Radar Conference 2019 in Boston, USA

09.04.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

New automated biological-sample analysis systems to accelerate disease detection

18.04.2019 | Life Sciences

Explosion on Jupiter-sized star 10 times more powerful than ever seen on our sun

18.04.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

New eDNA technology used to quickly assess coral reefs

18.04.2019 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>