Navigation Links
Over the hump: Ecologists use power of network science to challenge long-held theory
Date:9/22/2011

For decades, ecologists have toiled to nail down principles explaining why some habitats have many more plant and animal species than others.

Much of this debate is focused on the idea that the number of species is determined by the productivity of the habitat.Shouldn't a patch of prairie contain a different number of species than an arid steppe or an alpine tundra?

Maybe not, says an international team of scientists that pooled its resources to re-evaluate the relationship between species numbers and habitat productivity.

The innovative, standardized global sampling of 48 sites on five continents yielded an unprecedented data set.

"Our study shows no clear relationship between productivity and the number of plant species in small study plots," says Utah State University plant ecologist Peter Adler.

Scientists say Adler's and his colleagues' findings represent a significant advance in ecological thought. The findings appear in this week's issue of the journal Science.

"We challenged a prevailing model developed in the early 1970s by British ecologist J. Philip Grime," says Adler, lead author of the paper. "He proposed that the number of species rises then declines with increasing productivity."Though hotly debated, this "hump-shaped" model has remained a textbook standard for nearly four decades.

"In the search for underlying principles of ecology in a very complex natural world, it's inevitable that even long-standing and accepted theories will be debunked as more data are accumulated and synthesized," says Henry Gholz, program director in the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Division of Environmental Biology, which funded the research.

In an "Emperor's New Clothes" moment, Adler remembers skeptical observations about the hump-shaped model made by graduate students in his classroom.

"'Why do ecologists spend so much time on this model when the evidence to support it is so weak?' they asked me," he says. "That was the kick I needed to pursue this question."

The challenge was daunting.

Existing, disparate case studies couldn't conclusively support Grime's unimodal pattern. Inconsistencies in data collection methods further hampered efforts to distill evidence to support the hump-shaped model. So Adler and fellow ecologists formed the Nutrient Network, or "NutNet," an NSF Research Coordination Network dedicated to investigating biodiversity and ecosystem processes in grasslands around the world.>Based at the University of Minnesota (UMN), the network is funded by an NSF grant to network organizers and UMN scientists Elizabeth Borer and Eric Seabloom.

"Our work not only sheds light on this classic question, it also demonstrates the power of a network approach," Borer says. "NutNet data are poised to inform many pressing ecological questions. Similar global, grassroots collaborations could help settle other longstanding scientific debates."

Says Gholz, "Research Coordination Networks are designed to facilitate these types of insights into the functioning of nature, insights that aren't possible in a focus on individual ecosystems."

Adler says that NutNet's data "emphasize the need to consider many factors to explain patterns of diversity--not just productivity alone."

NutNet's findings should spur ecologists to focus on other important factors regulating biodiversity, he says, such as evolutionary history, disturbance and resource supply.

"It's time to remove outdated models from our textbooks and concentrate on more sophisticated approaches," Adler says,"That will improve our ability to predict the effects of environmental change on biodiversity."


'/>"/>
Contact: Cheryl Dybas
cdybas@nsf.gov
703-292-7734
National Science Foundation
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. Ecologists use 70-year-old pressed plants to chart citys vanishing native flora
2. Ecologists get fish eye view of sexual signals
3. Ecologists find new clues on climate change in 150-year-old pressed plants
4. Ecologists to discuss impacts of mountaintop mining at special ESA symposium
5. Ecologists receive mixed news from fossil record
6. Nations largest organization of ecologists offers expert database
7. Ecologists discover forests are growing faster
8. Ecologists sound out new solution for monitoring cryptic species
9. The value of variation: Ecologists consider the causes and consequences
10. Ecologists question effects of climate change on infectious diseases
11. Ecologists report quantifiable measures of natures services to humans
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Over the hump: Ecologists use power of network science to challenge long-held theory
(Date:4/11/2017)... , April 11, 2017 No ... but researchers at the New York University Tandon ... of Engineering have found that partial similarities between ... systems used in mobile phones and other electronic ... The vulnerability lies in the fact ...
(Date:4/5/2017)... April 5, 2017  The Allen Institute for Cell ... Explorer: a one-of-a-kind portal and dynamic digital window into ... data, the first application of deep learning to create ... cell lines and a growing suite of powerful tools. ... these and future publicly available resources created and shared ...
(Date:4/4/2017)... 4, 2017   EyeLock LLC , a leader ... United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has issued ... linking of an iris image with a face image ... the company,s 45 th issued patent. ... timely given the multi-modal biometric capabilities that have recently ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:9/19/2017)... ... September 19, 2017 , ... ... fume hood and a high-performance fume hood. Along with the advantages and disadvantages ... for ductless vs. ducted hoods in the laboratory. , Attendees will learn from ...
(Date:9/19/2017)... (PRWEB) , ... September 19, 2017 , ... VetStem Biopharma ’s CEO and founder, ... PA, PhD in Riordan’s new book "Stem Cell Therapy: A Rising Tide". Dr. Harman ... years. They bonded over an interest in the potential of stem cell therapy and ...
(Date:9/19/2017)... Pleasanton, Calif. and Washington, D.C. (PRWEB) , ... ... ... to delivering rapid care during an biological outbreak is about to be eliminated, ... When asked what makes ExcitePCR’s FireflyDX™ technologies different than other pathogen ...
(Date:9/19/2017)... ... September 19, 2017 , ... Avomeen Analytical ... recipients of its 2017 Science Student Award. The scholarship program is dedicated to ... community service defray the costs of obtaining their science education. , Avomeen began ...
Breaking Biology Technology: