Navigation Links
Drawing connections between food webs
Date:4/4/2012

Ecosystems today face various threats, from climate change to invasive species to encroaching civilization. If we hope to protect these systems and the species that live in them, we must understand them an extremely difficult and time-consuming task, given the world's seemingly endless number of ecosystems, each with its own complex dynamics and relationships.

But what if we could pinpoint the most powerful players in a given food web, those "keystone" species without which the entire ecosystem would collapse? And what if we could predict how changes to an ecosystem would affect its various organisms based on data collected from another ecosystem half a world away?

Researchers from Northwestern University, with partners from New Zealand's University of Canterbury and the Spanish Research Council, say we can. Their research has revealed commonalities about species' roles in food webs that could hold the key to success in conversation efforts and preservation of ecological communities worldwide.

The paper, "Evolutionary Conservation of Species' Roles in Food Webs," was published March 23 in the journal Science.

By studying the roles played by species in 32 ecological communities, the researchers found a species' role, or importance, in its food web isn't dependent upon its geographic location or even which species are present. Instead, a species' importance depends upon the type of species it is and its evolutionary history.

"The gray wolf, for instance, is a keystone species," said Irmak Sirer, a PhD candidate in the lab of Luis Amaral, professor of chemical and biological engineering at McCormick. "When the wolves disappeared from Yellowstone National Park for 70 years, a broad array of species bottomed out. When they were reintroduced in 1995, willows, songbirds, beavers, and many other species suddenly flourished."

"Based on our research, we now know that other species with a similar evolutionary history to this wolf hold equally important roles in their own food webs even if they are on a different continent and look nothing alike," Sirer added. "And we know they must be protected to avoid further ecological damage."

The authors compared species found in New Zealand with their closely-related species found elsewhere. "We tend to think of ecosystems from New Zealand to be completely different to their foreign counterparts because, at least to the naked eye, they are," said lead author Daniel Stouffer, a researcher at the University of Canterbury who received his PhD in chemical and biological engineering from Northwestern.

However, the researchers found that species from the most important taxonomic groups in New Zealand also tended to be the most important elsewhere, and that their roles may be a direct result of evolution.

This knowledge allows conservationists to focus their efforts on the most vital parts of an ecosystem, while also predicting what species might be threatened by changes like invasive species or climbing temperatures.

"Because this is a universal result, we can start developing methods of conservation that would apply to any food web," Sirer said. "This might be one of the first steps toward global conservation efforts."


'/>"/>

Contact: Megan Fellman
fellman@northwestern.edu
847-491-3115
Northwestern University
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Biofilm reorganization: Back to the theoretical drawing board
2. Calculating gene and protein connections in a Parkinsons disease model
3. Lifelong memories linked to stable nerve connections
4. Impaired brain connections traced to schizophrenia mutation
5. Brain connections for stress -- lessons from the worm
6. Calcium connections: Basic pathway for maintaining cells fuel stores
7. Brain connections break down as we age
8. Immune molecule regulates brain connections
9. Notre Dame research reveals brain network connections
10. New NOAA-funded research to illuminate connections between reefs in the Gulf of Mexico
11. Making sense of sensory connections
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:6/20/2016)... DALLAS , June 20, 2016 ... criminal justice technology solutions for public safety, investigation, ... by the prisons involved, it has secured the ... Corrections (DOC) facilities for Managed Access Systems (MAS) ... (4) additional facilities to be installed by October, ...
(Date:6/15/2016)... , June 15, 2016 ... report titled "Gesture Recognition Market by Application Market - Global Industry ... - 2024". According to the report, the  global gesture ... in 2015 and is estimated to grow at ... billion by 2024.  Increasing application of ...
(Date:6/9/2016)... Paris Police Prefecture ... solution to ensure the safety of people and operations in ... major tournament Teleste, an international technology group specialised ... today that its video security solution will be utilised by ... public safety across the country. The system roll-out is scheduled ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/27/2016)... ... ... Parallel 6 , the leading software as a service (SaaS) provider ... Patient Encounter CONSULT module which enables both audio and video telemedicine communication between the ... the CONSULT module, patients and physicians can schedule a face to face virtual patient ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... 24, 2016  Regular discussions on a range of subjects ... the two entities said Poloz. Speaking at a ... , he pointed to the country,s inflation target, which ... "In certain areas ... have common economic goals, why not sit down and address ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... June 23, 2016 , ... UAS ... the launch of their brand, UP4™ Probiotics, into Target stores nationwide. The company, ... proud to add Target to its list of well-respected retailers. This list includes ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... June 23, 2016 , ... ... and Mold) microbial test has received AOAC Research Institute approval 061601. , “This ... introduced last year,” stated Bob Salter, Vice President of Regulatory and Industrial Affairs. ...
Breaking Biology Technology: