Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Biodiversity As Insurance In The Face Of Change

Date:
October 15, 1999
Source:
University Of Wisconsin-Madison
Summary:
It has been a truism, long held by scientists, environmentalists and others, that biological diversity and the intricate, interdependent web of biological relationships it fosters is a must for maintaining the health and stability of any ecosystem. But the argument has never been carefully honed, and there is no consensus among scientists regarding this central question of biology.

MADISON - It has been a truism, long held by scientists, environmentalists and others, that biological diversity and the intricate, interdependent web of biological relationships it fosters is a must for maintaining the health and stability of any ecosystem.

But the argument has never been carefully honed, and there is no consensus among scientists regarding this central question of biology: Just why are diversity and competition so important to balancing the overall health of ecosystems?

Now, a group of scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, writing in the Friday, Oct. 15, edition of the journal Science, suggests that simple diversity may be less important than how individual animals, plants or microbes respond to environmental change.

"It's not the number of species per se. It's how they respond to the environment that's important," says Anthony Ives, a UW-Madison associate professor of zoology and the lead author of the study published in the nation's leading scientific journal.

The primary result of the study is that competition between animals, plants and other forms of life is a sideshow. Instead, the true measure of a community's biological health and stability is the wherewithal of just some species to withstand environmental changes such as a warmer climate, a chemical change in the atmosphere or changes in land use.

That is not to say, Ives stressed, that biodiversity has no practical importance. It does, especially in the face of unpredicted, large-scale environmental shifts, he says.

"The more species you have, the greater the likelihood you'll have some (organisms) that are tolerant of environmental change. Biodiversity is an insurance policy against unknown environmental fluctuations and disturbances."

The idea, posited by Ives and co-authors Kevin Gross and Jennifer Klug, UW-Madison graduate students, suggests that ecologists should shift attention from the interations among species, and instead focus on how different species react to different environmental assaults.

The basis of the report published this week in Science is a mathematical analysis of the ebb and flow -- the variability -- of populations of organisms encountering environmental stress. "It is explicitly modeling the variability, which hasn't been done before," says Ives.

According to Gross, the model, like an analysis of the stock market, looks at variability through time, and identifies stability in an ecological community as a measure of how much populations of species fluctuate in the face of environmental change.

The hope, according to the Wisconsin scientists, is that the model will contribute to a better understanding of ecosystem dynamics, how ecosystems change along with the larger environment.

The work, says Ives, should not be considered an argument against the importance of biodiversity.

"What biodiversity gives you is a greater chance that there will be tolerant species present to help retain the function of the ecosystem," he says.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of Wisconsin-Madison. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of Wisconsin-Madison. "Biodiversity As Insurance In The Face Of Change." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 October 1999. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/10/991015075329.htm>.
University Of Wisconsin-Madison. (1999, October 15). Biodiversity As Insurance In The Face Of Change. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/10/991015075329.htm
University Of Wisconsin-Madison. "Biodiversity As Insurance In The Face Of Change." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/10/991015075329.htm (accessed September 2, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

We've Got Mites Living In Our Faces And So Do You

We've Got Mites Living In Our Faces And So Do You

Newsy (Aug. 30, 2014) A new study suggests 100 percent of adult humans (those over 18 years of age) have Demodex mites living in their faces. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Washington Wildlife Center Goes Nuts Over Baby Squirrels

Washington Wildlife Center Goes Nuts Over Baby Squirrels

Reuters - US Online Video (Aug. 30, 2014) An animal rescue in Washington state receives an influx of orphaned squirrels, keeping workers busy as they nurse them back to health. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Experimental Ebola Drug ZMapp Cures Lab Monkeys Of Disease

Experimental Ebola Drug ZMapp Cures Lab Monkeys Of Disease

Newsy (Aug. 29, 2014) In a new study, a promising experimental treatment for Ebola managed to cure a group of infected macaque monkeys. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) State health officials say testing has confirmed the presence of a killer amoeba in a water system serving three St. John the Baptist Parish towns. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins