Extreme weather threatens rich ecosystemsApril 02, 2012
Extreme weather such as hurricanes, torrential downpours and droughts will become more frequent in pace with global warming. Consequently, this increases the risk for species extinction, especially in bio diverse ecosystems such as coral reefs and tropical rainforests.
Human impact means that flora and fauna become extinct at a rate 100-1000 times higher than normal. Climate change has been deemed as one of the main causes of species depletion.
A research team in theoretical biology at Linköping University has, with the help of mathematical modelling and simulation, studied how the dynamics of different types of ecosystems may be affected by significant environment fluctuations.
Linda Kaneryd, doctoral student and lead author of a study recently published in the journal, Ecology and Evolution, says the results were surprising. Kaneryd explains,
"Several previous studies of food web structures have suggested that species-rich ecosystems are often more robust than species-poor ecosystems. However at the onset of increased environmental fluctuations, such as extreme weather, we see that extreme species-rich ecosystems are the most vulnerable and this entails a greater risk for a so-called cascading extinction."
In a rainforest or on coral reef there are a wide variety of species of primary producers such as green plants and algae. Since they are competitors, relatively few individuals of the same species exist, subjecting them to a greater risk of extinction should external conditions change. This could result in a depletion of food sources for a species of herbivores that, in turn, affects a predator at the top of the food chain. Biologists call this transformation a cascading extinction.
The opposite would apply to an ecosystem whereby few species exist in large numbers and animal species are adaptable generalists.
The researchers create their model food webs following on from their experiences with real ecosystems; what eats what, the composition of the species' life cycles, and how they interact with others. In this study, external conditions are represented as an increasing and unpredictable variation.
"The model we worked with is quite typical. The next step is to introduce actual, detailed climatic data," informs Bo Ebenman, Professor of Theoretical Biology who supervised Linda Kaneryds thesis.
Related Ecosystems Current Events and Ecosystems News Articles
A majority on Earth face severe self-inflicted water woes within 2 generations: Scientists
A conference of 500 leading water scientists from around the world today issued a stark warning that, without major reforms, "in the short span of one or two generations, the majority of the 9 billion people on Earth will be living under the handicap of severe pressure on fresh water, an absolutely essential natural resource for which there is no substitute.
Small, speedy plant-eater extends knowledge of dinosaur ecosystems
Dinosaurs are often thought of as large, fierce animals, but new research highlights a previously overlooked diversity of small dinosaurs.
Thinking 'big' may not be best approach to saving large-river fish
Large-river specialist fishes - from giant species like paddlefish and blue catfish, to tiny crystal darters and silver chub - are in danger, but researchers say there is greater hope to save them if major tributaries identified in a University of Wisconsin-Madison study become a focus of conservation efforts.
Scientists announce top 10 new species
An amazing glow-in-the-dark cockroach, a harp-shaped carnivorous sponge and the smallest vertebrate on Earth are just three of the newly discovered top 10 species selected by the International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University.
UCLA life scientists present new insights on climate change and species interactions
UCLA life scientists provide important new details on how climate change will affect interactions between species in research published online May 21 in the Journal of Animal Ecology.
Amazon River exhales virtually all carbon taken up by rain forest
The Amazon rain forest, popularly known as the lungs of the planet, inhales carbon dioxide as it exudes oxygen. Plants use carbon dioxide from the air to grow parts that eventually fall to the ground to decompose or get washed away by the region's plentiful rainfall.
WCS informs discussion of responses to a changing Arctic
In two critical reports released at the Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting in Kiruna, Sweden on May 15th, the scientific expertise of the Wildlife Conservation Society helped inform an international body of senior government officials about changing conditions in the Arctic, and potential responses to those changes.
Shifts in global water systems -- markers of a new geological epoch: The Anthropocene
A suite of disquieting global phenomena have given rise to the "Anthropocene," a term coined for a new geologic epoch characterized by humanity's growing dominance of the Earth's environment and a planetary transformation as profound as the last epoch-defining event -- the retreat of the glaciers 11,500 years ago.
Why we need to put the fish back into fisheries
Overfishing has reduced fish populations and biodiversity across much of the world's oceans. In response, fisheries are increasingly reliant on a handful of highly valuable shellfish.
Invasive crazy ants are displacing fire ants in areas throughout southeastern US
Invasive "crazy ants" are displacing fire ants in areas across the southeastern United States, according to researchers at The University of Texas at Austin. It's the latest in a history of ant invasions from the southern hemisphere and may prove to have dramatic effects on the ecosystem of the region.
More Ecosystems Current Events and Ecosystems News Articles