(Santa Barbara, Calif.) An international team of scientists has published a new analysis showing that as plant species around the world go extinct, natural habitats become less productive and contain fewer total plants a situation that could ultimately compromise important benefits that humans get from nature.
The article is to appear in the online issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the week of Nov. 5.
The process by which plants grow and produce more plant biomass is one of the most fundamental biological processes on the planet, said Bradley Cardinale, lead author of the paper and assistant professor of biology at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Plant productivity regulates the ability of nature to take greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, as well as the ability of habitats to produce oxygen, food, fiber, and biofuels, according to the authors of the study. Therefore, species extinctions could compromise the benefits that nature provides to society, said Cardinale.
The study summarized the results of 44 experiments from around the world that simulated plant species extinction and showed that ecosystems with fewer species produce up to 50 percent less plant biomass than those with more natural levels of diversity.
Our analyses provide the most comprehensive evidence yet that natural habitats with a greater variety of plant species are more productive, said co-author Michel Loreau of McGill University in Montreal. This occurs partly because diverse communities are more likely to contain highly productive species. But even more important, our analyses show that diverse communities are more productive because plants are complementary in how they use biological resources. In other words, different plant species play unique roles in the environment.
Co-author Andy Hector, an assistant professor at the University of Zurich, explained t
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University of California - Santa Barbara