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Loss of plant diversity threatens Earth's life-support systems
Date:3/7/2011

ll settings, the researchers also attempted to determine how diversity effects "scale-up" to longer time scales, bigger areas, or both. The authors note that these are the real-world scales "at which species extinctions actually matter and at which conservation and management efforts take place."

The team's findings suggest that scale does indeed matter, and that small laboratory and field experiments typically underestimate the effects of biodiversity loss. In the researchers' own words, "Data are generally consistent with the idea that the strength of diversity effects are stronger in experiments that run longer, and in experiments performed at larger spatial scales."

Duffy is now further testing this scaling issue with a 3-year grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation. He is using the grant to establish a global experimental network for studying how nutrient pollution and changes in biodiversity impact seagrass beds.

The future of biodiversity studies

The American Journal of Botany study also identifies the additional information needed to better understand biodiversity loss and its effects. Important frontiers include additional studies of how small-scale diversity experiments scale-up to real ecosystems; how biodiversity loss compares to and interacts with other environmental stressors such as climate change, invasive species, low-oxygen dead zones, ocean acidification, and water pollution; and how species-level diversity compares in importance with diversity at other levels such as genetic and functional (e.g., herbivore, grazer, or carnivore)

Cardinale says information from these types of studies will put scientists "in a position to calculate the number of species needed to support the variety of processes required to sustain life in real ecosystems." He adds, "And we don't mean 'need' in an ethical or an aesthetic way. We mean an actual concrete number of species required to sustain basic life-s
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Contact: Emmett Duffy
jeduffy@vims.edu
804-684-7369
Virginia Institute of Marine Science
Source:Eurekalert  

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