Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

A new model for understanding biodiversity

Date:
December 1, 2011
Source:
McGill University
Summary:
Biology researchers have developed a unified, spatially based understanding of biodiversity that takes into account the complex food webs of predators and prey.

Researchers have developed a unified theory of ecosystem change by combining spatial modelling and food web analysis.

Related Articles


Animals like foxes and raccoons are highly adaptable. They move around and eat everything from insects to eggs. They and other "generalist feeders" like them may also be crucial to sustaining biological diversity, according to a new study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

McGill biology researchers have developed a unified, spatially based understanding of biodiversity that takes into account the complex food webs of predators and prey. "Biodiversity exists within a landscape. Predators and prey are continuously on the move as their habitats change -- it's a complex dynamic system," says lead author Pradeep Pillai, a doctoral candidate at McGill.

Previous theories of biodiversity have either concentrated on the complex network of feeding interactions that connects all species into food webs or have focused on the way that species are connected in space. "A unified theory of ecological diversity requires understanding how species interact both in space and time, and this is what is different about our work," explains co-author Michel Loreau, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Theoretical Community and Ecosystem Ecology.

What they discovered was that a "branching network" maintained by generalist species, like foxes or coyotes, that are able to move around and prey on different species in different locations, have an important role in promoting complex food webs and thereby in maintaining biodiversity. The researchers concluded that these generalist species have the advantage of being able to find prey no matter where they are as they move from one place to another, and this sustains the network.

This theory also lays a foundation for understanding the effects human activities -- like deforestation -- are likely to have not simply on a single species but on whole food webs. The researchers show how food webs are eroded by species extinction when disturbed by habitat destruction. "The theory is useful because it helps us understand how biodiversity is maintained, but also the impacts humans have when they disrupt ecological networks by destroying and fragmenting habitat," concludes co-author Andrew Gonzalez, Canada Research Chair in Biodiversity Science and Director of the Quebec Centre for Biodiversity Science.

This research was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and the Fonds quιbιcois de la recherche sur la nature et les technologies.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. P. Pillai, A. Gonzalez, M. Loreau. Metacommunity theory explains the emergence of food web complexity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2011; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1106235108

Cite This Page:

McGill University. "A new model for understanding biodiversity." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 December 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111121114855.htm>.
McGill University. (2011, December 1). A new model for understanding biodiversity. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111121114855.htm
McGill University. "A new model for understanding biodiversity." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111121114855.htm (accessed November 24, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Monday, November 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Ebola-Hit Sierra Leone's Late Cocoa Leaves Bitter Taste

Ebola-Hit Sierra Leone's Late Cocoa Leaves Bitter Taste

AFP (Nov. 23, 2014) — The arable district of Kenema in Sierra Leone -- at the centre of the Ebola outbreak in May -- has been under quarantine for three months as the cocoa harvest comes in. Duration: 01:32 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
NY Gov. on Flood Prep: 'prepared for the Worst'

NY Gov. on Flood Prep: 'prepared for the Worst'

AP (Nov. 23, 2014) — First came the big storm. Now comes the big melt for residents of flood-prone areas around Buffalo. New York's governor says officials are preparing for the worst as the temperature is expected to rise and potentially melt several feet of snow. (Nov. 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Anglerfish Rarely Seen In Its Habitat Will Haunt You

Anglerfish Rarely Seen In Its Habitat Will Haunt You

Newsy (Nov. 22, 2014) — For the first time Monterey Bay Aquarium recorded a video of the elusive, creepy and rarely seen anglerfish. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Buffalo Residents Digging Out, Helping out

Raw: Buffalo Residents Digging Out, Helping out

AP (Nov. 22, 2014) — Hundreds of volunteers joined a 'shovel brigade' in Buffalo, New York on Saturday, as the city was living up to its nickname, "The City of Good Neighbors." 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:

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