Navigation Links
Study: Ecological effects of biodiversity loss underestimated
Date:11/30/2010

Children aren't the only youngsters who are picky eaters: More than half of all species are believed to change their diets -- sometimes more than once -- between birth and adulthood. And a new study by ecologists at Rice University and the University of California, Santa Barbara, finds this pattern has major implications for the survival of threatened species and the stability of natural ecosystems.

With thousands of species facing Earth's sixth major mass extinction, there is little doubt that the planet's biodiversity is in rapid decline. But many questions remain about how natural ecosystems will respond to the lost diversity. The new study, published online this week in Ecology Letters, challenges one of the standard assumptions that ecologists have used for decades to analyze the effects of biodiversity loss on ecosystems. That assumption -- that all food resources used by a species are interchangeable among all members of the species -- fails to account for the fact that diets change as young animals develop into adults, said Rice ecologist Volker Rudolf, one of the study's co-authors. The findings by Rudolf and co-author Kevin Lafferty suggest that changing dietary needs within species have important implications for ecosystem health.

"If a species has three resources in an ecosystem, and we take away one, conventional wisdom suggests that that species should be fine," said Rudolf, assistant professor in ecology and evolutionary biology. "But if the missing resource is crucial for a particular developmental stage of the species, that just doesn't work. You can't take away all of the adults, for example, or all of the larvae, and assume that the species will persist."

He said the new study was made possible by a wealth of information from recent datasets collected by Lafferty and colleagues at UC Santa Barbara. The datasets cover seven food webs --each representing the network of connections between dozens and, in some cases, hundreds of species in an ecosystem. Rudolf said Lafferty's food webs include data about specific resource requirements for particular developmental stages within species, in some instances for as many as 50 percent of the species in the ecosystem.

"With this data, we were able to estimate the percentage of resources that are actually shared among developmental stages," Rudolf said. "In addition, we were able to show how this affects the stability of natural ecosystems.

"We found that in most food webs, the individual stages of a species typically share less than 50 percent of their resources," he said. "And within certain subgroups, like metamorphic species, that number is sometimes less than 10 percent."

The researchers used the information to formulate computer models that simulated how the loss of species affects natural ecosystems. One important implication of the finding is that natural ecosystems are much less stable than previously assumed, and many at-risk species may face an even greater likelihood of becoming extinct than ecologists previously thought.

"Our results suggest that the increasing loss of biodiversity -- due to changing climate, habitat destruction and other causes -- will likely have much more devastating effects on natural communities and result in a greater number of species extinctions than previously believed," Rudolf said.


'/>"/>

Contact: David Ruth
druth@rice.edu
713-348-6327
Rice University
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Study: urban black bears live fast, die young
2. Study: Bird diversity lessens human exposure to West Nile Virus
3. Study: Tropical wetlands hold more carbon than temperate marshes
4. Study: Wildlife need more complex travel plans
5. Study: Elderly Women can increase strength but still risk falls
6. UNC study: Text messaging may help children fight off obesity
7. Study: Did early climate impact divert a new glacial age?
8. Study: Excessive use of antiviral drugs could aid deadly flu
9. UNC study: Tinkering with the circadian clock can suppress cancer growth
10. Study: Fluid buildup in lungs is part of the damage done by the flu
11. Study: Health undervalued in reproductive rights debate
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:4/11/2017)... April 11, 2017 NXT-ID, Inc. (NASDAQ: ... company, announces the appointment of independent Directors Mr. Robin ... its Board of Directors, furthering the company,s corporate governance and ... Gino Pereira ... look forward to their guidance and benefiting from their considerable ...
(Date:4/5/2017)...  The Allen Institute for Cell Science today announces ... portal and dynamic digital window into the human cell. ... application of deep learning to create predictive models of ... a growing suite of powerful tools. The Allen Cell ... publicly available resources created and shared by the Allen ...
(Date:4/5/2017)... 2017 KEY FINDINGS The global ... a CAGR of 25.76% during the forecast period of ... factor for the growth of the stem cell market. ... MARKET INSIGHTS The global stem cell market is ... geography. The stem cell market of the product is ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/10/2017)... ... 2017 , ... For the second time in three years, ... Award. Representatives of the FirstHand program travelled to Washington, D.C. Tuesday, October 10th, ... mission is to change the trajectory of STEM education in America by dramatically ...
(Date:10/10/2017)... ... October 10, 2017 , ... USDM Life ... for the life sciences and healthcare industries, announces a presentation by Subbu Viswanathan ... The presentation, “Automating GxP Validation for Agile Cloud Platforms,” will present a revolutionary ...
(Date:10/9/2017)... Charlotte, N.C. (PRWEB) , ... October 09, 2017 , ... ... Purple announced Dr. Christopher Stubbs, a professor in Harvard University’s Departments of Physics and ... Dr. Stubbs was a member of the winning team for the 2015 Breakthrough Prize ...
(Date:10/7/2017)... ... October 06, 2017 , ... ... launched its ProxiMeta™ Hi-C metagenome deconvolution product, featuring the first commercially available ... bioinformatics software to perform Hi-C metagenome deconvolution using their own facilities, supplementing ...
Breaking Biology Technology: