Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Wilder weather exerts a stronger influence on biodiversity than steadily changing conditions

Date:
January 17, 2010
Source:
University of California - San Diego
Summary:
An increase in the variability of local conditions could do more to harm biodiversity than slower shifts in climate, a new study has found.

Diaptomus nudus, a species of zooplankton found in freshwater lakes.
Credit: Danusia Dolecki

An increase in the variability of local conditions could do more to harm biodiversity than slower shifts in climate, a new study has found.

Climate scientists predict more frequent storms, droughts, floods and heat waves as the Earth warms. Although extreme weather would seem to challenge ecosystems, the effect of fluctuating conditions on biodiversity actually could go either way. Species able to tolerate only a narrow range of temperatures, for example, may be eliminated, but instability in the environment can also prevent dominant species from squeezing out competitors.

"Imagine species that have different optimal temperatures for growth. In a fluctuating world, neither can get the upper hand and the two coexist," said Jonathan Shurin, an ecologist at the University of California, San Diego who led the project. Ecologists have observed similar positive effects on populations of organisms as different as herbacious plants, desert rodents, and microscopic animals called zooplankton.

Now a study of zooplankton found in dozens of freshwater lakes over decades of time has revealed both effects. Shurin and colleagues found fewer species in lakes with the most variable water chemistry. But lakes with the greatest temperature variations harbored a greater variety of zooplankton, they report in the journal Ecology Letters January 21.

Their study considered data from nine separate long-term ecological studies that included a total of 53 lakes in North America and Europe. In addition to sampling zooplankton, scientists had also taken physical measurements repeatedly each season for periods ranging from 3 to 44 years.

From these data, they calculated the variability of 10 physical properties, including pH and the levels of nutrients such as organic carbon, phosphorus and nitrogen. Temperatures and the amount of oxygen dissolved in the water at both the surface and bottom of each lake were also included. The authors also teased apart variation based on the pace of change with year-to-year changes considered separately from changes that occurred from season-to-season or on more rapid timescales.

Zooplankton populations respond quickly to changes because they reproduces so fast. "In a summer, you're sampling dozens of generations," Shurin said. "For mammals or annual plants, you would have to watch for hundreds or thousands of years to see the same population turnover."

At every time scale the pattern held: Ecologists found fewer species of zooplankton in lakes with fluctuating water chemistry and greater numbers of species in those with varying temperatures. The authors noted that the temperature variations they observed remained within normal ranges for these lakes. But some chemical measures, particularly pH and levels of phosphorus, strayed beyond normal limits due to pollution and acid rain.

Environmental variability through time could either promote or reduce biodiversity depending on the pace and range of fluctuations, the authors suggested.

"It may depend on the predictability of the environment. If you have a lot of violent changes through time, species may not be able to program their life cycles to be active when conditions are right. They need the ability to read the cues, to hatch out at the right time," Shurin said. "If the environment is very unpredictable, that may be bad for diversity, because many species just won't be able to match their lifecycles to that."

Shurin's 10 co-authors include scientists from environmental agencies in Canada, and universities and research institutes in Canada, Germany, Switzerland and the United States. The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada supported Shurin's work on this study.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California - San Diego. The original article was written by Susan Brown. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of California - San Diego. "Wilder weather exerts a stronger influence on biodiversity than steadily changing conditions." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 January 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100115182629.htm>.
University of California - San Diego. (2010, January 17). Wilder weather exerts a stronger influence on biodiversity than steadily changing conditions. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100115182629.htm
University of California - San Diego. "Wilder weather exerts a stronger influence on biodiversity than steadily changing conditions." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100115182629.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 Dogs Aid Search for More Victims of Suspected Indiana Serial Killer

Cadaver Dogs Aid Search for More Victims of Suspected Indiana Serial Killer

Reuters - US Online Video (Oct. 21, 2014) Police in Gary, Indiana are using cadaver dogs to search for more victims after a suspected serial killer confessed to killing at least seven women. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
White Lion Cubs Unveiled to the Public

White Lion Cubs Unveiled to the Public

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Oct. 21, 2014) Visitors to Belgrade zoo meet a pair of three-week-old lion cubs for the first time. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
'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

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