Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New concept needed for a better understanding of biodiversity in time, space

Date:
October 30, 2013
Source:
Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum
Summary:
By now, biodiversity is a well known term even in the broader public, as it is used in many media reports about species extinction, natural resources or climate change. Yet research in this field is still lacking an integrative approach. Paleontologists and biologists, for example, still cut their own path, their studies in species diversity and species extinction are rarely combined.

Inclusion of paleontological data into the modeling of ecological niches of living species might show that many of them could live under very different conditions than today, that their ecological niche is much bigger as assumed. One example is the spotted hyena, which is living in Africa today, but which appeared also in Europe during the glacial period.
Credit: C. Grünewald

By now, biodiversity is a well known term even in the broader public, as it is used in many media reports about species extinction, natural resources or climate change. Yet research in this field is still lacking an integrative approach. Paleontologists and biologists, for example, still cut their own path, their studies in species diversity and species extinction are rarely combined. Scientists of the Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiK-F) have now responded to calls for integration, and provide a concept for linking data of both research fields. They present their framework in the scientific journal Trends in Ecology & Evolution.

Up to now, biologists and paleontologists have been working in different worlds, focusing either on living or on extinct species. This division has limited an understanding of relationships in space and time. Prof. Dr. Katrin Böhning-Gaese, director of the BiK-F and member of the board of directors of the Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung, stresses the importance of the conceptual framework for completely new scientific possibilities: "Thanks to covering both paleontological and biological expertise here at Senckenberg und BiK-F, we can put this interdisciplinary approach directly into practice."

Dead and alive: A concept for integrated framework to which paleontologists and biologists contribute

"If we combine our knowledge about extinct species with data about existing organisms, we can get a much deeper insight into the evolution and the extinction of species," says Dr. Susanne Fritz, BiK-F, leading author of the article. "We might understand why about 800 species of carnivorous mammalians became extinct during the last 15 million years in North America and in Eurasia, and why today only 280 species are left. Combining this with data about historical climate change will improve our estimates for the future number of species, especially when keeping the ongoing climate change in mind."

The hyena, a European citizen? Biodiversity can also be explored by investigating how species' traits evolve in close interaction with the environment, for example by analyzing ecological niches. These niches describe the environmental needs of a species and allow conclusions about how the species adapted to its environment. Biologists assume, for example, that the spotted hyena is now found in savannas and arid regions of Africa and the Middle East because it is perfectly adapted to their specific conditions, such as high temperatures and aridity. Paleontologists, however, have known for years that hyenas also lived in Europe even during the last glacial period. "If we take the paleontological data into account, ecological niches may be much broader than assumed so far," says Fritz. In the case of the hyena, this means that the species doesn't exclusively need high temperatures. It also means that a new definition of the hyena's ecological niche is required -- and that the question of where hyenas can or will live in the future under different climatic conditions remains unresolved.

A comprehensive understanding of complex processes

The present study will serve as a guideline for the integration of the different approaches used in both disciplines, and demonstrates the resulting additional benefit. The team around Susanne Fritz hopes to gain a new comprehensive understanding of how the interactions of the numerous processes shape temporal and spatial dynamics of life. Examples for those key processes are the relationships between species and their environment as well as interactions between different species, the evolution of species' traits, and the processes of speciation, dispersal and extinction of species. The new approach allows the integration of all these factors in comprehensive models.

Scientists of both disciplines are strongly interested in this concept: "The statistical models that describe the evolution of species can now be extended with paleontological data," comments Böhning-Gaese. "Our work represents a solid theoretical foundation for future modeling approaches."

The new concept will allow better projections of which species might go extinct due to environmental changes -- and on the impact this will have on the whole ecosystem. Considering the effects of global warming, the increased knowledge generated by the new method is even more valuable.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Susanne A. Fritz, Jan Schnitzler, Jussi T. Eronen, Christian Hof, Katrin Böhning-Gaese, Catherine H. Graham. Diversity in time and space: wanted dead and alive. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 2013; 28 (9): 509 DOI: 10.1016/j.tree.2013.05.004

Cite This Page:

Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum. "New concept needed for a better understanding of biodiversity in time, space." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 October 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131030125430.htm>.
Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum. (2013, October 30). New concept needed for a better understanding of biodiversity in time, space. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131030125430.htm
Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum. "New concept needed for a better understanding of biodiversity in time, space." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131030125430.htm (accessed October 22, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, October 22, 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