Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Species Extinction Could Reduce Productivity Of Plants On Earth By Half

Date:
November 6, 2007
Source:
University of California - Santa Barbara
Summary:
A new analysis shows that as plant species around the world go extinct, natural habitats become less productive and contain fewer total plants -- a situation that could ultimately compromise important benefits that humans get from nature.

As plant species around the world go extinct, natural habitats become less productive and contain fewer total plants -- a situation that could ultimately compromise important benefits that humans get from nature.
Credit: Michele Hogan

An international team of scientists has published a new analysis showing that as plant species around the world go extinct, natural habitats become less productive and contain fewer total plants -- a situation that could ultimately compromise important benefits that humans get from nature.

"The process by which plants grow and produce more plant biomass is one of the most fundamental biological processes on the planet," said Bradley Cardinale, lead author of the paper and assistant professor of biology at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Plant productivity regulates the ability of nature to take greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, as well as the ability of habitats to produce oxygen, food, fiber, and biofuels, according to the authors of the study. "Therefore, species extinctions could compromise the benefits that nature provides to society," said Cardinale.

The study summarized the results of 44 experiments from around the world that simulated plant species extinction and showed that ecosystems with fewer species produce up to 50 percent less plant biomass than those with more "natural" levels of diversity.

"Our analyses provide the most comprehensive evidence yet that natural habitats with a greater variety of plant species are more productive," said co-author Michel Loreau of McGill University in Montreal. "This occurs partly because diverse communities are more likely to contain highly productive species. But even more important, our analyses show that diverse communities are more productive because plants are 'complementary' in how they use biological resources. In other words, different plant species play unique roles in the environment."

Co-author Andy Hector, an assistant professor at the University of Zurich, explained this result with a sports analogy. "The results of our analyses suggest that plant communities operate much like a soccer team," he said. "Teams are composed of both star players and supporting players. You probably can't win many games if you lose your top striker because she or he is the most productive player and can dominate a game. But strikers cannot win games by themselves. They need great passes from supporting players and solid goal-tending if the team is going to be successful as a whole."

According to the authors, plant communities are also composed of both stars and supporting players. Some plants are so productive that they dominate the productivity of natural habitats. But supporting species complement the key players and enhance the productivity of plant communities even further.

They said that species extinction is one of the most pronounced environmental changes of our time and noted that many scientists now argue that the Earth is in the middle of the sixth mass extinction in the history of life. Some estimates suggest that as much as 50 percent of all known species could be extinct by the end of this century.

Cardinale emphasized that experiments to date have probably underestimated the impact of species loss on ecosystems. "We found that as experiments were run longer, they detected increasingly strong impacts of species diversity on plant productivity," he said. "Unfortunately, because most experiments have only been funded to run for a few years at a time, they have probably underestimated the impacts of extinction on natural habitats."

The article is to appear in the online issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the week of Nov. 5.

Other authors of the study, in addition to those mentioned above, are: Marc W. Cadotte, Ian T. Carroll, and Jerome J. Weis of UC Santa Barbara; Justin P. Wright of Duke University; and Diane S. Srivastava of the University of British Columbia.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California - Santa Barbara. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of California - Santa Barbara. "Species Extinction Could Reduce Productivity Of Plants On Earth By Half." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 November 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/11/071105171952.htm>.
University of California - Santa Barbara. (2007, November 6). Species Extinction Could Reduce Productivity Of Plants On Earth By Half. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/11/071105171952.htm
University of California - Santa Barbara. "Species Extinction Could Reduce Productivity Of Plants On Earth By Half." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/11/071105171952.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

'Cadaver Dog' Sniffs out Human Remains

'Cadaver Dog' Sniffs out Human Remains

AP (Oct. 21, 2014) Where's a body buried? Buster's nose can often tell you. He's a cadaver dog, specially trained to find human remains and increasingly being used by law enforcement and accepted in courts. These dogs are helping solve even decades-old mysteries. (Oct. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) Two white lion cubs, an extremely rare subspecies of the African lion, were recently born at Belgrade Zoo. They are being bottle fed by zoo keepers after they were rejected by their mother after birth. Duration: 00:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) He is leading a one man agricultural revolution in Mali - Oumar Diatabe uses traditional farming methods to get the most out of his land and is teaching others across the country how to do the same. Duration: 01:44 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Goliath Spider Will Give You Nightmares

Goliath Spider Will Give You Nightmares

Buzz60 (Oct. 20, 2014) An entomologist stumbled upon a South American Goliath Birdeater. With a name like that, you know it's a terrifying creepy crawler. Sean Dowling (@SeanDowlingTV) has the details. Video provided by Buzz60
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