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201624Jan21:22

Bio­di­ver­sity proves crit­i­cal to main­tain­ing healthy ecosystems

Infor­ma­tion
pub­lished 24 Jan­u­ary 2016 | mod­i­fied 24 Jan­u­ary 2016
Archived

Castle marshes nature reserveResearchers have found clear evi­dence that bio­log­i­cal com­mu­ni­ties rich in species are sub­stan­tially health­ier and more pro­duc­tive than those depleted of species.

Using new sci­en­tific tech­niques, U.S. Geo­log­i­cal Sur­vey (USGS) research ecol­o­gist Jim Grace and a group of inter­na­tional sci­en­tists have resolved a long-​standing debate about whether species diver­sity is nec­es­sary for a healthy ecosystem.

Sci­en­tists have long hypoth­e­sized that bio­di­ver­sity is of crit­i­cal impor­tance to the sta­bil­ity of nat­ural ecosys­tems and their abil­i­ties to pro­vide ecosys­tem ser­vices. In fact, because this assump­tion is intu­itively true to the gen­eral pub­lic, many of the efforts of con­ser­va­tion agen­cies around the world are dri­ven by the assump­tion that this hypoth­e­sis is sci­en­tif­i­cally proven. Although the­o­ret­i­cal stud­ies have sup­ported this claim, sci­en­tists have strug­gled for the past half-​century to clearly iso­late such an effect in the real world. This new study does just that. The find­ings have been pub­lished online on 13 Jan­u­ary in the jour­nal Nature.

This study shows that you can­not have sus­tain­able, pro­duc­tive ecosys­tems with­out main­tain­ing bio­di­ver­sity in the landscape
James B. Grace, lead author, Wet­land and Aquatic Research Cen­ter, USGS »

The sci­en­tists used data col­lected for this research by a global con­sor­tium, the Nutri­ent Net­work, from more than a thou­sand grass­land plots span­ning five con­ti­nents. Using recent advances in ana­lyt­i­cal meth­ods, the group was able to iso­late the bio­di­ver­sity effect from the effects of other processes, includ­ing processes that can reduce diver­sity. Using these data with “inte­gra­tive mod­el­ling” — inte­grat­ing the pre­dic­tions from mul­ti­ple the­o­ries into a sin­gle model — sci­en­tists detected the clear sig­nals of numer­ous under­ly­ing mech­a­nisms link­ing the health and pro­duc­tiv­ity of ecosys­tems with species richness.

The abil­ity to explain the diver­sity in the num­ber of species is tremen­dously impor­tant for poten­tial con­ser­va­tion appli­ca­tions,” said Grace. “The new type of analy­sis we devel­oped can pre­dict how both spe­cific man­age­ment actions (such as reduc­tion of plant mate­r­ial through mow­ing or increase in soil fer­til­ity through fer­til­iza­tion), as well as shifts in cli­mate con­di­tions, may alter both pro­duc­tiv­ity and the num­ber of species.”

Accord­ing to Debra Willard, Coor­di­na­tor for the USGS Cli­mate Research & Devel­op­ment Pro­gram, “These results sug­gest that if cli­mate change leads to reduced species or genetic diver­sity, which is a real pos­si­bil­ity, that then could lead to a reduced capac­ity for ecosys­tems to respond to addi­tional stresses.”

As an indi­ca­tion of the global aware­ness of this issue, the Inter­gov­ern­men­tal Plat­form on Bio­di­ver­sity and Ecosys­tem Ser­vices was recently cre­ated to help policy-​makers under­stand and address prob­lems stem­ming from the global loss of bio­di­ver­sity and degra­da­tion of ecosystems.

Another study recently pub­lished in Nature showed that greater bio­di­ver­sity makes ecosys­tems more resilient to cli­mate change, which sup­ports the the­ory of bio­di­ver­sity being crit­i­cal to ecosys­tem health. While in 2013 researchers from the Uni­ver­sity of East Anglia, UK, said more than half of com­mon plants and one third of the ani­mals could see a dra­matic decline this cen­tury due to cli­mate change (more here). This makes it all the more impor­tant to fol­low up on the his­toric agree­ment to com­bat cli­mate change and unleash actions and invest­ment towards a low car­bon, resilient and sus­tain­able future that was agreed by 195 nations in Paris in Decem­ber last year [Moos].


(Source: USGS news release, 15.01.2016)


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