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Scientists warn that species extinction could reduce productivity of plants on Earth by half
Date:11/5/2007

his result with a sports analogy. The results of our analyses suggest that plant communities operate much like a soccer team, he said. Teams are composed of both star players and supporting players. You probably cant win many games if you lose your top striker because she or he is the most productive player and can dominate a game. But strikers cannot win games by themselves. They need great passes from supporting players and solid goal-tending if the team is going to be successful as a whole.

According to the authors, plant communities are also composed of both stars and supporting players. Some plants are so productive that they dominate the productivity of natural habitats. But supporting species complement the key players and enhance the productivity of plant communities even further.

They said that species extinction is one of the most pronounced environmental changes of our time and noted that many scientists now argue that the Earth is in the middle of the sixth mass extinction in the history of life. Some estimates suggest that as much as 50 percent of all known species could be extinct by the end of this century.

Cardinale emphasized that experiments to date have probably underestimated the impact of species loss on ecosystems. We found that as experiments were run longer, they detected increasingly strong impacts of species diversity on plant productivity, he said. Unfortunately, because most experiments have only been funded to run for a few years at a time, they have probably underestimated the impacts of extinction on natural habitats.


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Contact: Gail Gallessich
gail.g@ia.ucsb.edu
805-893-7220
University of California - Santa Barbara
Source:Eurekalert

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