- Scaling laws predict global microbial diversity — … predict that there are up to 1 trillion microbial species on Earth. These estimates are much greater than previously predicted and emphasise the wealth of microbial biodiversity that remains to be explored on our planet …
- Environmental filtering explains variation in plant diversity along resource gradients — … new evidence to challenge the prevailing theory that resource competition regulates plant diversity along resource gradients …
- The natural history of the South Hills crossbill in relation to its impending extinction — … describes an amazing odyssey, starting with a recent discovery of a new vertebrate species … followed by evidence to show that the species has experienced an 80% decline in its population size in less than ten years due to warming climatic conditions …
- Improvements in ecosystem services from investments in natural capital — … introduces the first national ecosystem assessment in China, with many important discoveries …
- How variation between individuals affects species coexistence — … [the authors] show mathematically that within-population variation in some general situations may have negative effects on the coexistence of two competing species …
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Tags: Anthropocene, bees, biodiversity, carbon, carbon storage, China, climate change, climatic debt, community ecology, competition, coral reefs, decline, defauntation, deforestation, ecosystem services, ecosystems, extinction, Fertiliser, forests, microbes, microbial diversity, mutualism, neonicotinoids, nutrient loading, nutrients, plant diversity, pollination, Soil, species loss, Species richness, sustainability, time series
Categories : conservation
Is biodiversity good for us? In many ways, this is a stupid question because at some point, losing species that we use directly will obviously impact us negatively — think of food crops, pollination and carbon uptake.
But how much can we afford to lose before we notice anything bad is happening? Is the sort of biodiversity erosion we’re seeing today really such a big deal?
One area of research experiencing a surge in popularity is examining how variation in biodiversity (biowealth1) affects the severity of infectious diseases, and it is particularly controversial with respect to the evidence for a direct effect on human pathogens (e.g., see a recent paper here, a critique of it, and a reply).
Controversy surrounding the biodiversity-disease relationship among non-human species is less intense, but there are still arguments about the main mechanisms involved. The amplification hypothesis asserts that a community with more species has a greater pool of potential hosts for pathogens, so pathogens increase as biodiversity increases. On the contrary, the dilution hypothesis asserts that disease prevalence decreases with increasing host species diversity via several possible mechanisms, such as more host species reducing the chance that a given pathogen will ‘encounter’ a suitable host, and that in highly biodiverse communities, an infected individual is less likely to be surrounded by the same species, so the pathogen cannot easily be transmitted to a new host (the so-called transmission interference hypothesis).
So I’ve joined the ecological bandwagon and teamed up yet again with some very clever Chinese collaborators to test these hypotheses in — if I can be so bold to claim — a rather novel and exciting way.
Our new paper was just published online in Ecology: Warming and fertilization alter the dilution effect of host diversity on disease severity2. Read the rest of this entry »
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Tags: Alpine Meadow, biodiversity, climate change, climate disruption, Community Phylogeny, Diversity-Disease Relationship, Fertilisation, Fertiliser, Foliar Fungal Disease, Global warming, Species Evenness, Species richness, Tibetan plateau
Categories : biodiversity, biowealth, climate change, conservation, ecology, ecosystem function, ecosystem services, function
To all ecology people who read this blog (students, post-docs, academics), this is an intriguing, provocative and slightly worrying title. As ecology has matured into a full-fledged, hard-core, mathematical science on par with physics, chemistry and genetics (and is arguably today one of the most important sciences given how badly we’ve trashed our own home), its sophistication now threatens to render many of the traditional aspects of ecology redundant.
Let me explain.
As a person who cut his teeth in field ecology (with all the associated dirt, dangers, bites, stings, discomfort, thrills, headaches and disasters), I’ve had my fair share of fun and excitement collecting ecological data. There’s something quaintly Victorian (no, I am not referring to the state next door) about the romantic and obsessive naturalist collecting data to the exclusion of nearly all other aspects of civilised life; the intrepid adventurer in some of us takes over (likely influenced by the likes of David Attenborough) and we convince ourselves that our quest for the lonely datum will heal all of the Earth’s ailments.
As I’ve matured in ecology and embraced its mathematical complexity and beauty, the recurring dilemma is that there are never enough data to answer the really big questions. We have sampled only a fraction of extant species, we know embarrassingly little about how ecosystems respond to disturbance, and we know next to nothing about the complexities of ecosystem services. And let’s not forget our infancy in understanding the synergies of extinctions in the past and projections into the future. Multiply this uncertainty by several orders of magnitude for ocean ecosystems.
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Tags: biodiversity, coral reef, ecology, Great Barrier Reef, Hugh Possingham, photographic analysis, Species richness, surrogate
Categories : Australia, coasts, conservation, coral reefs, fish, marine, marine protected area, modelling, tropical
I found a nice complement to my More is Better post from January where I reported the results of a new meta-analysis demonstrating how higher species evenness and diversity engendered greater forest productivity – great empirical evidence for the so-called diversity-productivity relationship.
The latest paper adding convincing evidence regarding the important role of species diversity in maintaining ecosystem function comes from Marc Cadotte and colleagues published online early in Ecology. The paper, Phylogenetic diversity promotes ecosystem stability, looks at the problem from a slightly different angle.
If you recall from Zhang and colleagues, forest plots composed of many different species were more productive than single-species stands, and more ‘even’ (i.e., a metric which includes relative abundance of each species in system) stands were more productive, and better at explaining the variance in productivity than species richness alone.
Of course, species richness is considered only a blunt instrument to measure ‘biodiversity’, with evenness providing only a slight improvement. Ideally, we should be talking about genetic diversity considering this is the fundamental unit on which most of evolutionary processes operate (i.e., genes and gene complexes).
So Cadotte and colleagues measured genetic diversity within experimental plots of grassland savanna species established in Minnesota, USA (i.e., consisting of C3 grasses, C4 grasses, legumes, non-legume herbaceous forbs and two woody species) and compared this to ecosystem ‘stability’ (i.e., above-ground biomass divided by inter-annual standard deviation). They measured genetic diversity using four different metrics:
- the sum of the phylogenetic branch lengths represented by a set of co-occurring species
- the mean nearest taxon distance = the average of the shortest phylogenetic distance for each species to its closest relative
- the mean pairwise distance = the average of all phylogenetic distances connecting species in the sample; and
- an entropic measure based on the relative distribution of evolutionary distinctiveness, measured as the amount of a species’ evolutionary history that is not shared with other species Read the rest of this entry »
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Tags: diversity-productivity relationship, Ecosystem, ecosystem stability, Genetic diversity, phylogeny, resilience, species, Species richness
Categories : biodiversity, conservation, genetic diversity, modelling