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:2/13/2017)... , Feb. 13, 2017 Former 9/11 ... Senate Judiciary Committee, Janice Kephart of Identity ... President Donald Trump,s "Executive Order: Protecting the ... (Jan. 27, 2017):  "As President Trump,s ,Travel ... Circuit has now essentially banned the travel ban, it ...
(Date:2/8/2017)... 2017  Aware, Inc. (NASDAQ: AWRE ), a ... results for its quarter and year ended December 31, 2016. ... was $3.9 million compared to $6.9 million in the same ... 2016 was $0.6 million compared to $2.6 million in the ... of 2016 was $0.5 million, or $0.02 per diluted share, ...
(Date:2/7/2017)... , Feb. 7, 2017   MedNet Solutions ... the entire spectrum of clinical research, is pleased to ... , its innovative, highly flexible and award winning ... customers. iMedNet is a proven Software-as-a-Service ... Electronic Data Capture (EDC), but also delivers an entire ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:2/16/2017)... -- ImMAGE Biotherapeutics (OTCMKTS: IMMG), an early-stage biotechnology company harnessing the ... for triple negative breast cancer (TNBC), announced today their completion ... program. The YEi Start in France ... grow their business in France and ... to complete an intensive one week immersion in ...
(Date:2/16/2017)... 2017   Capricor Therapeutics, Inc. (NASDAQ: ... developing first-in-class biological therapies for cardiac and other ... to terminate its license agreement with the Mayo ... Cenderitide. "Our decision to return these ... our efforts to advance our core cell and ...
(Date:2/16/2017)... 2017  Champions Oncology, Inc. (NASDAQ: CSBR ... of advanced technology solutions and products to personalize the ... addition of new cohorts of PDX models to their ... expand Champions, product line in hepatocellular cancer, breast cancer, ... and non-small cell lung cancer (including EGFR mutation; ALK/ROS1 ...
(Date:2/16/2017)... , ... February 16, 2017 ... ... Molecular Research Inc. has further extended its industry leading Biochemistry Services specifically ... offers state-of-the-art cGMP techniques and methods for the biochemical and biosimilar ...
Breaking Biology Technology: