Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

From bacteria to birds: tropical plantations disrupt biodiversity

29.08.2017

Scientists from Göttingen University investigate effects of land conversion in South-East Asia

A research team at the University of Göttingen has conducted a large-scale study in Indonesia to understand how the conversion of rainforest to rubber and oil palm plantations alters biodiversity of these ecosystems.


A recently established smallholder oil-palm plantation in the Jambi region of Sumatra, Indonesia.

Photo: Andrew Barnes


Researchers collecting invertebrates from the leaf litter on one of the research plots in a rubber plantation.

Photo: Andrew Barnes

The researchers found that land-use change directly reduces the number of different species as well as the number of individual plants and animals, especially at the highest trophic levels, and that interactions among different organisms control how the whole ecosystem responds to land use. The study was published in Nature Ecology and Evolution.

Tropical rainforests are under threat from the human demand for natural products like vegetable oils and rubber, which are found in food and common household products around the world. The demand is driving the conversion of tropical biodiversity hotspots to agricultural plantations, and over the past two decades, deforestation rates in South-East Asia have rapidly increased.

This has profound consequences for biodiversity, affecting, for example, plants, insects and birds. These different organisms constantly interact with each other, especially through trophic interactions, like when insects eat plants or birds eat insects. Because of these interactions, when one group of organisms is affected by deforestation, this may have negative consequences for another group as well. Ultimately, trophic interactions can determine how whole ecosystems respond to disturbances.

The Göttingen researchers investigated the direct and cascading effects of land-use change in Sumatra by collecting data from a range of organisms, among them plants, bacteria, invertebrates and birds. Their research plots were located in rainforest, areas of rubber trees mixed with forest tree species (“jungle rubber”) and monoculture rubber and oil palm plantations.

The researchers found that species diversity was as much as 65 percent lower on the study plots in monoculture plantations compared to rainforest plots. This was due to direct effects like higher mortality of insects due to the use of toxic pesticides in plantations, and also to indirect effects which occur through the disruption of organisms at lower trophic levels that serve as resources for organisms higher in the food chain. For example, they found reduced species diversity of invertebrates that eat leaf litter (such as millipedes and cockroaches) in plantations, which then impacted the predators that rely on these invertebrates for food, like spiders.

“Essentially, we found that responses of ecosystems to land-use change are highly complex when we look at many taxonomic groups simultaneously,” explains lead author Dr. Andrew D. Barnes. Dr. Kara Allen, the other lead author, points out: “Our results provide important insight into how whole ecosystems react to human disturbances. However, they also suggest that we still have much to learn about how high-diversity systems operate.”

The study also revealed other interesting trends: It has often been shown that larger-bodied species at higher trophic levels, such as predatory birds or tigers, tend to be the first to go extinct when natural ecosystems are disturbed by humans. The researchers were able to confirm this theory – the highest trophic levels were indeed the most strongly affected because of the combination of their reliance on organisms at the lower trophic levels for food, along with the simultaneous direct impacts of land-use change.

“By pointing to groups that will have the most impact on ecosystem-level conservation, these sorts of insights should help to better inform conservation management decisions,” says Prof. Ulrich Brose, senior author of the study who has since moved to the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and the University of Jena, where he is head of the research group Theory in Biodiversity Science.

The study was conducted within the collaborative research centre “Ecological and Socioeconomic Functions of Tropical Lowland Rainforest Transformation Systems (Sumatra, Indonesia)” (EFForTS), a larger collaboration between the University of Göttingen and several Indonesian universities funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG). Further information can be found online at http://www.uni-goettingen.de/en/310995.html.

Original publication: Andrew D Barnes, Kara Allen et al. Direct and cascading impacts of tropical land-use change on multi-trophic biodiversity. Nature Ecology and Evolution 2017. Doi: 10.1038/s41559-017-0275-7.

Contact:
Dr. Andrew Barnes
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Leipzig University
Phone: +49 341 9733-122
Email: andrew.barnes@idiv.de
Internet: http://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/eshow/barnes-andrew.html

Dr. Kara Allen
West Virginia University
Department of Biology
Email: kara.allen@mail.wvu.edu
Internet: http://www.researchgate.net/profile/Kara_Allen2

Prof. Dr. Ulrich Brose
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Friedrich Schiller University Jena
Phone: +49 341 9733-205
Email: ulrich.brose@idiv.de
Internet: http://www.idiv.de/en/groups_and_people/employees/details/eshow/brose-ulrich.html

Weitere Informationen:

http://www.uni-goettingen.de/en/310995.html

Thomas Richter | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht How molecules teeter in a laser field
18.01.2019 | Forschungsverbund Berlin

nachricht Discovery of enhanced bone growth could lead to new treatments for osteoporosis
18.01.2019 | University of California - Los Angeles

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Ten-year anniversary of the Neumayer Station III

The scientific and political community alike stress the importance of German Antarctic research

Joint Press Release from the BMBF and AWI

The Antarctic is a frigid continent south of the Antarctic Circle, where researchers are the only inhabitants. Despite the hostile conditions, here the Alfred...

Im Focus: Ultra ultrasound to transform new tech

World first experiments on sensor that may revolutionise everything from medical devices to unmanned vehicles

The new sensor - capable of detecting vibrations of living cells - may revolutionise everything from medical devices to unmanned vehicles.

Im Focus: Flying Optical Cats for Quantum Communication

Dead and alive at the same time? Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics have implemented Erwin Schrödinger’s paradoxical gedanken experiment employing an entangled atom-light state.

In 1935 Erwin Schrödinger formulated a thought experiment designed to capture the paradoxical nature of quantum physics. The crucial element of this gedanken...

Im Focus: Nanocellulose for novel implants: Ears from the 3D-printer

Cellulose obtained from wood has amazing material properties. Empa researchers are now equipping the biodegradable material with additional functionalities to produce implants for cartilage diseases using 3D printing.

It all starts with an ear. Empa researcher Michael Hausmann removes the object shaped like a human ear from the 3D printer and explains:

Im Focus: Elucidating the Atomic Mechanism of Superlubricity

The phenomenon of so-called superlubricity is known, but so far the explanation at the atomic level has been missing: for example, how does extremely low friction occur in bearings? Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institutes IWM and IWS jointly deciphered a universal mechanism of superlubricity for certain diamond-like carbon layers in combination with organic lubricants. Based on this knowledge, it is now possible to formulate design rules for supra lubricating layer-lubricant combinations. The results are presented in an article in Nature Communications, volume 10.

One of the most important prerequisites for sustainable and environmentally friendly mobility is minimizing friction. Research and industry have been dedicated...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Our digital society in 2040

16.01.2019 | Event News

11th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Aachen, 3-4 April 2019

14.01.2019 | Event News

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

12.12.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Additive manufacturing reflects fundamental metallurgical principles to create materials

18.01.2019 | Materials Sciences

How molecules teeter in a laser field

18.01.2019 | Life Sciences

The cytoskeleton of neurons has been found to be involved in Alzheimer's disease

18.01.2019 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>