Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Biodiversity key to Earth's life-support functions in a changing world

Date:
August 14, 2011
Source:
Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg
Summary:
The biological diversity of organisms on Earth is not just something we enjoy when taking a walk through a blossoming meadow in spring; it is also the basis for countless products and services provided by nature, including food, building materials, and medicines as well as the self-purifying qualities of water and protection against erosion. New findings indicate that much more biodiversity is necessary to keep ecosystems functioning in a world that is changing ever faster. The protection of diversity is thus a crucial factor in maintaining Earth's life-support functions.

Meadows with different amounts of species were planted in the tracts and compared with each other.
Credit: Sandra Weigelt

The biological diversity of organisms on Earth is not just something we enjoy when taking a walk through a blossoming meadow in spring; it is also the basis for countless products and services provided by nature, including food, building materials, and medicines as well as the self-purifying qualities of water and protection against erosion. These so-called ecosystem services are what makes Earth inhabitable for humans. They are based on ecological processes, such as photosynthesis, the production of biomass, or nutrient cycles.

Since biodiversity is on the decline, both on a global and a local scale, researchers are asking the question as to what role the diversity of organisms plays in maintaining these ecological processes and thus in providing the ecosystem's vital products and services.

In an international research group led by Prof. Dr. Michel Loreau from Canada, ecologists from ten different universities and research institutes, including Prof. Dr. Michael Scherer-Lorenzen from the University of Freiburg, compiled findings from numerous biodiversity experiments and reanalyzed them. These experiments simulated the loss of plant species and attempted to determine the consequences for the functioning of ecosystems, most of them coming to the conclusion that a higher level of biodiversity is accompanied by an increase in ecosystem processes. However, the findings were always only valid for a certain combination of environmental conditions present at the locations at which the experiments were conducted and for a limited range of ecosystem processes.

In a study published in the current issue of the journal Nature, the research group investigated the extent to which the positive effects of diversity still apply under changing environmental conditions and when a multitude of processes are taken into account. They found that 84 percent of the 147 plant species included in the experiments promoted ecological processes in at least one case.

The more years, locations, ecosystem processes, and scenarios of global change -- such as global warming or land use intensity -- the experiments took into account, the more plant species were necessary to guarantee the functioning of the ecosystems. Moreover, other species were always necessary to keep the ecosystem processes running under the different combinations of influencing factors.

These findings indicate that much more biodiversity is necessary to keep ecosystems functioning in a world that is changing ever faster. The protection of diversity is thus a crucial factor in maintaining Earth's life-support functions.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Forest Isbell, Vincent Calcagno, Andy Hector, John Connolly, W. Stanley Harpole, Peter B. Reich, Michael Scherer-Lorenzen, Bernhard Schmid, David Tilman, Jasper van Ruijven, Alexandra Weigelt, Brian J. Wilsey, Erika S. Zavaleta, Michel Loreau. High plant diversity is needed to maintain ecosystem services. Nature, 2011; DOI: 10.1038/nature10282

Cite This Page:

Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg. "Biodiversity key to Earth's life-support functions in a changing world." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 August 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110811084513.htm>.
Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg. (2011, August 14). Biodiversity key to Earth's life-support functions in a changing world. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110811084513.htm
Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg. "Biodiversity key to Earth's life-support functions in a changing world." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110811084513.htm (accessed July 23, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

New Orleans Plans to Recycle Cigarette Butts

New Orleans Plans to Recycle Cigarette Butts

AP (July 21, 2014) — New Orleans is the first U.S. city to participate in a large-scale recycling effort for cigarette butts. The city is rolling out dozens of containers for smokers to use when they discard their butts. (July 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Shark Sightings a Big Catch for Cape Tourism

Shark Sightings a Big Catch for Cape Tourism

AP (July 21, 2014) — A rise in shark sightings along the shores of Chatham, Massachusetts is driving a surge of eager vacationers to the beach town looking to catch a glimpse of a great white. (July 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Spectacular Lightning Storm Hits London

Spectacular Lightning Storm Hits London

AFP (July 19, 2014) — A spectaCular lightning storm struck the UK overnight Friday. Images of lightning strikes over the Shard and Tower Bridge in central London. Duration: 00:23 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
A Centuries' Old British Tradition Is Far from a Swan Song

A Centuries' Old British Tradition Is Far from a Swan Song

AFP (July 19, 2014) — As if it weren't enough that the Queen is the Sovereign of the UK and 15 other Commonwealth realms, she is also the owner of all Britain's unmarked swans. Duration: 02:18 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:

More Coverage


Biodiversity Critical for Maintaining Multiple 'ecosystem Services'

Aug. 19, 2011 — By combining data from 17 of the largest and longest-running biodiversity experiments, scientists from universities across North America and Europe have found that previous studies have ... read more
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