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:6/3/2016)... June 3, 2016 ... Nepal hat ein ... hochsicherer geprägter Kennzeichen, einschließlich Personalisierung, Registrierung und ... der Produktion und Implementierung von Identitätsmanagementlösungen. Zahlreiche ... im Januar teilgenommen, aber Decatur wurde als ...
(Date:5/24/2016)... , May 24, 2016 Ampronix facilitates superior patient care by providing unparalleled ... medical LCD display is the latest premium product recently added to the range of ... ... ... Sony 3d Imaging- LCD Medical Display- Ampronix News ...
(Date:5/3/2016)... , May 3, 2016  Neurotechnology, a provider ... MegaMatcher Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS) , ... multi-biometric projects. MegaMatcher ABIS can process multiple complex ... any combination of fingerprint, face or iris biometrics. ... SDK and MegaMatcher Accelerator , which ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/23/2016)... Mass. , June 23, 2016   ... development of novel compounds designed to target cancer ... napabucasin, has been granted Orphan Drug Designation from ... the treatment of gastric cancer, including gastroesophageal junction ... stemness inhibitor designed to inhibit cancer stemness pathways ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... , June 23, 2016  The Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) ... precise treatments and faster cures for prostate cancer. Members of the Class of ... 15 countries. Read More About the Class of 2016 ... ... ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... June 23, 2016 , ... In a new case report published today ... a patient who developed lymphedema after being treated for breast cancer benefitted from an ... paradigm for dealing with this debilitating, frequent side effect of cancer treatment. ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... 23, 2016 , ... ClinCapture, the only free validated electronic ... showcase its product’s latest features from June 26 to June 30, 2016 for ... Disrupting Clinical Trials in The Cloud during the conference. DIA (Drug Information ...
Breaking Biology Technology: