Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Ecosystem Health Depends On Complex Relationship Between Organisms

Date:
February 22, 2000
Source:
University Of Washington
Summary:
It has long been known that a diversity of plants and animals can be a good indicator of a healthy ecosystem. But University of Washington research, to be published in the Feb. 17 edition of the journal Nature, suggests the health of the ecosystem is rooted in a complex codependency between plants and animals that produce organic matter and simple organisms that break it down.

It has long been known that a diversity of plants and animals can be a good indicator of a healthy ecosystem. But University of Washington research, to be published in the Feb. 17 edition of the journal Nature, suggests the health of the ecosystem is rooted in a complex codependency between plants and animals that produce organic matter and simple organisms that break it down.

Related Articles


Plants and algae - referred to as producers - acquire nutrients from inorganic sources supplied by fungi and bacteria - called decomposers. Decomposers in turn acquire the carbon they need from the producers. The number of species in each group appears to correlate with how well the ecosystem functions, with greater diversity bringing more efficiency, said Shahid Naeem, a UW assistant zoology professor and lead author of the study described in Nature.

"The effects of producer diversity on ecosystem function is only part of the picture," he said. "Decomposer diversity is also important. You can't separate them."

The research, conducted by Naeem and UW graduate students Daniel Hahn and Gregor Schuurman, provides insights into what occurs when a complex ecosystem is turned into a simpler one, clearing rain forest to make way for a banana plantation, for instance, or converting a prairie to a wheat field.

The findings came from the yearlong study of 112 microcosms created in petri dishes, each containing 50 milliliters of a growth medium and kept in the same temperature and light conditions. Each petri dish was loaded with zero, one, two, four, eight or 12 species of bacteria and zero, one, two, four or eight species of algae. (The only combination not used was zero bacteria and zero algae.)

The researchers found that algae production varied greatly, depending on the number of bacteria species introduced, and correlated directly to the diversity of both algae and bacteria species. They also discovered that increasing the number of algal or bacterial species could influence the number of carbon sources consumed by bacteria.

The research, conducted in 1998 and paid for by a grant from the National Science Foundation, suggests that the relationship between producers and decomposers strongly influences the way an ecosystem responds to changes in biodiversity, Naeem said. That means activities that might seem benign to an ecosystem, since they don't appear to affect plants and animals, actually might alter the ecosystem by affecting decomposer species diversity. That in turn would affect producer species, the research indicates.

Most human activities that lead to a loss of biodiversity, such as habitat disturbance or modification, affect both producers and decomposers. The codependency between them, Naeem said, is an important consideration for conservationists dealing with an extinction rate that some researchers believe could cost the world half its species by 2050.

Some scientists, he noted, argue that humans alone affect species extinction in a way similar to an asteroid impact such as the one 65 million years ago to which the extinction of the dinosaurs has been attributed.

"It's all disappearing very, very quickly. This doesn't necessarily mean they're all disappearing from the face of the Earth, but as you walk you will encounter fewer species per hectare, or per acre, or per meter," he said.

"We're a single species, but we're a powerful species."


Story Source:

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


Cite This Page:

University Of Washington. "Ecosystem Health Depends On Complex Relationship Between Organisms." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 February 2000. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/02/000222064946.htm>.
University Of Washington. (2000, February 22). Ecosystem Health Depends On Complex Relationship Between Organisms. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/02/000222064946.htm
University Of Washington. "Ecosystem Health Depends On Complex Relationship Between Organisms." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/02/000222064946.htm (accessed December 20, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Monarch Butterflies Descend Upon Mexican Forest During Annual Migration

Monarch Butterflies Descend Upon Mexican Forest During Annual Migration

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 19, 2014) Millions of monarch butterflies begin to descend onto Mexico as part of their annual migration south. Rough Cut (no reporter narration) Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Newsy (Dec. 19, 2014) A new study suggests a certain type of bird was able to sense a tornado outbreak that moved through the U.S. a day before it hit. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 18, 2014) The U.S. Navy unveils an underwater device that mimics the movement of a fish. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

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