Biodiversity around the world is increasingly threatened by global warming, habitat loss, and other human impacts. But what does this loss of species mean for the functioning of ecosystems that humans depend on for goods and services? Can ecosystems around our planet survive and maintain their primary functions with fewer species in them? After decades of research on many issues pertaining to life on Earth, are scientists any closer to attaining these answers?
In a Biodiversity Special Issue of the American Journal of Botany, to be published in March, many of the world's experts on biodiversity have come together to present their state-of-the-art analysis of where we stand today regarding the taxonomy, systematics, evolutionary biology, biogeography, ecology, conservation, and restoration of species distributed all over the world.
Understanding the causes and consequences of global loss of biodiversity is the main area of research for Bradley Cardinale, an ecologist from the University of Michigan. In one of the seminal papers in AJB's Biodiversity Special Issue (http://www.amjbot.org/cgi/reprint/ajb.1000364v1), Cardinale, along with several international collaborators, explores how changes to primary producers plants and algae that are the baseline of the biodiversity networkaffect ecological processes that are essential to the functioning of ecosystems around the world.
"Nearly every organism on this planet depends on plants for their survival," Cardinale commented. "If species extinction compromises the process by which plants grow, then it degrades one of the key features required to sustain life on Earth."
To take on such an enormous question, Cardinale and his co-authors conducted a meta-analysisthis entails finding and sifting through hundreds of published studies for appropriate data that can be used to answer larger-scale questions. In some res
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American Journal of Botany