Science Current Events | Science News | Brightsurf.com
 

Ecosystem effects of biodiversity loss could rival impacts of climate change, pollution

May 03, 2012
ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Loss of biodiversity appears to impact ecosystems as much as climate change, pollution and other major forms of environmental stress, according to a new study from an international research team.

The study is the first comprehensive effort to directly compare the impacts of biological diversity loss to the anticipated effects of a host of other human-caused environmental changes.

The results highlight the need for stronger local, national and international efforts to protect biodiversity and the benefits it provides, according to the researchers, who are based at nine institutions in the United States, Canada and Sweden.

"Loss of biological diversity due to species extinctions is going to have major impacts on our planet, and we better prepare ourselves to deal with them," said University of Michigan ecologist Bradley Cardinale, one of the authors. The study is scheduled for online publication in the journal Nature on May 2.

"These extinctions may well rank as one of the top five drivers of global change," said Cardinale, an assistant professor at the U-M School of Natural Resources and Environment and an assistant professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

Studies over the last two decades have demonstrated that more biologically diverse ecosystems are more productive. As a result, there has been growing concern that the very high rates of modern extinctions - due to habitat loss, overharvesting and other human-caused environmental changes - could reduce nature's ability to provide goods and services like food, clean water and a stable climate.

But until now, it's been unclear how biodiversity losses stack up against other human-caused environmental changes that affect ecosystem health and productivity.

"Some people have assumed that biodiversity effects are relatively minor compared to other environmental stressors," said biologist David Hooper of Western Washington University, the lead author of the Nature paper. "Our new results show that future loss of species has the potential to reduce plant production just as much as global warming and pollution."

In their study, Hooper and his colleagues used combined data from a large number of published studies to compare how various global environmental stressors affect two processes important in all ecosystems: plant growth and the decomposition of dead plants by bacteria and fungi. The new study involved the construction of a data base drawn from 192 peer-reviewed publications about experiments that manipulated species richness and examined the impact on ecosystem processes.

The global synthesis by Hooper and his colleagues found that in areas where local species loss this century falls within the lower range of projections (loss of 1 to 20 percent of plant species), negligible impacts on ecosystem plant growth will result, and changes in species richness will rank low relative to the impacts projected for other environmental changes.

In ecosystems where species losses fall within intermediate projections (21 to 40 percent of species), however, species loss is expected to reduce plant growth by 5 to 10 percent, an effect that is comparable in magnitude to the expected impacts of climate warming and increased ultraviolet radiation due to stratospheric ozone loss.

At higher levels of extinction (41 to 60 percent of species), the impacts of species loss ranked with those of many other major drivers of environmental change, such as ozone pollution, acid deposition on forests, and nutrient pollution.

"Within the range of expected species losses, we saw average declines in plant growth that were as large as changes seen in experiments simulating several other major environmental changes caused by humans," Hooper said. "I think several of us working on this study were surprised by the comparative strength of those effects."

The strength of the observed biodiversity effects suggests that policymakers searching for solutions to other pressing environmental problems should be aware of potential adverse effects on biodiversity, as well, the researchers said.

Still to be determined is how diversity loss and other large-scale environmental changes will interact to alter ecosystems. "The biggest challenge looking forward is to predict the combined impacts of these environmental challenges to natural ecosystems and to society," said J. Emmett Duffy of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, a co-author of the paper.

Authors of the Nature paper, in addition to Hooper, Cardinale and Duffy, are: E. Carol Adair of the University of Vermont and the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis; Jarrett E.K. Byrnes of the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis; Bruce Hungate of Northern Arizona University; Kristen Matulich of University of California Irvine; Andrew Gonzalez of McGill University; Lars Gamfeldt of the University of Gothenburg; and Mary O'Connor of the University of British Columbia and the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis.

Funding for the study included grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis.

"This analysis establishes that reduced biodiversity affects ecosystems at levels comparable to those of global warming or air pollution," said Henry Gholz, program director in the National Science Foundation's Division of Environmental Biology, which funded the research.


University of Michigan


Related Biodiversity Current Events and Biodiversity News Articles


Stanford researchers rethink 'natural' habitat for wildlife
Protecting wildlife while feeding a world population predicted to reach 9 billion by 2050 will require a holistic approach to conservation that considers human-altered landscapes such as farmland, according to Stanford researchers.

Shade grown coffee shrinking as a proportion of global coffee production
The proportion of land used to cultivate shade grown coffee, relative to the total land area of coffee cultivation, has fallen by nearly 20 percent globally since 1996, according to a new study by scientists from The University of Texas at Austin and five other institutions.

EU must take urgent action on invasive species
The EU must take urgent action to halt the spread of invasive species that are threatening native plants and animals across Europe, according to a scientist from Queen's University Belfast.

Two new species of yellow-shouldered bats endemic to the Neotropics
Lying forgotten in museum collections two new species of yellow-shouldered bats have been unearthed by scientists at the American Museum of New York and The Field Museum of Natural History and described in the open access journal ZooKeys.

Stanford biologists help solve fungi mysteries
A new genetic analysis revealing the previously unknown biodiversity and distribution of thousands of fungi in North America might also reveal a previously underappreciated contributor to climate change.

Three new species of yellow-shouldered bats discovered in museum collections
Scientists at Chicago's Field Museum and international collaborators have reconstructed the phylogeny and biological history for the Yellow-shouldered bats in the New World tropics, the region of the Earth surrounding the equator.

World ranking tracks birds' evolutionary distinctness
A team of international scientists, including a trio from Simon Fraser University, has published the world's first ranking of evolutionary distinct birds under threat of extinction.

One of the last strongholds for Western chimpanzees
When Liberia enters the news it is usually in the context of civil war, economic crisis, poverty or a disease outbreak such as the recent emergence of Ebola in West Africa.

Where Credit is Due: How Acknowledging Expertise Can Help Conservation Efforts
Scientists know that tapping into local expertise is key to conservation efforts aimed at protecting biodiversity - but researchers rarely give credit to these local experts.

Technical tests of biodiversity
What happens when physicists play (using mathematical instruments) with the genetics of populations? They may discover unexpected connections between migration and biodiversity, for example, as recently done by a group of researchers from the International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA) in Trieste and the Polytechnic University in Turin in a study published in the journal Physical Review Letters.
More Biodiversity Current Events and Biodiversity News Articles

Sustaining Life: How Human Health Depends on Biodiversity

Sustaining Life: How Human Health Depends on Biodiversity
by Eric Chivian (Editor), Aaron Bernstein (Editor)


The Earth's biodiversity-the rich variety of life on our planet-is disappearing at an alarming rate. And while many books have focused on the expected ecological consequences, or on the aesthetic, ethical, sociological, or economic dimensions of this loss, Sustaining Life is the first book to examine the full range of potential threats that diminishing biodiversity poses to human health.

Edited and written by Harvard Medical School physicians Eric Chivian and Aaron Bernstein, along with more than 100 leading scientists who contributed to writing and reviewing the book, Sustaining Life presents a comprehensive--and sobering--view of how human medicines, biomedical research, the emergence and spread of infectious diseases, and the production of food, both on land and in the...

Biodiversity: An Introduction

Biodiversity: An Introduction
by Kevin J. Gaston (Author), John I. Spicer (Author)


CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD ARTWORK
This concise introductory text provides a complete overview of biodiversity - what it is, how it arose, its distribution, why it is important, human impact upon it, and what should be done to maintain it.Timely overview of the serious attempts made to quantify and describe biodiversity in a scientific way Acts as an easy entry point into the primary literature Provides real-world examples of key issues, including illustrations of major temporal and spatial patterns in biodiversity Designed primarily with undergraduate students and course lecturers in mind, it will also be of interest to anyone who requires an overview of, and entry to, the vast literature on these topics. All the figures included in the book are downloadable from the Blackwell...

Biodiversity

Biodiversity
by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent (Author), William Munoz (Illustrator)


A photo essay demonstrating the concept of biodiversity, a term used to encompass the many forms of life on Earth and their interdependence on one another for survival. The reader not only gets a firm grasp of what biodiversity is, but also an explanation of why it is important to maintain.


Tree of Life: The Incredible Biodiversity of Life on Earth (CitizenKid)

Tree of Life: The Incredible Biodiversity of Life on Earth (CitizenKid)
by Rochelle Strauss (Author), Margot Thompson (Illustrator)


If every known species on Earth were a leaf on a tree, that tree would have 1 750 000 leaves. Since humans count for just one leaf on the tree, we have a lot to learn about the millions of other forms of life with which we share the world. A dazzlingly illustrated and child-friendly introduction to biodiversity, Tree of Life shows how living things are classified into five kingdoms -- and how each has much to tell us about all aspects of life on our planet. Tree of Life is part of CitizenKid: A collection of books that inform children about the world and inspire them to be better global citizens.

A World in One Cubic Foot: Portraits of Biodiversity

A World in One Cubic Foot: Portraits of Biodiversity
by W. S. Di Piero (Author), Alan Huffman (Author), August Kleinzahler (Author), Elizabeth Kolbert (Author), Nalini M. Nadkarni (Author), Jasper Slingsby (Author), Peter Slingsby (Author), David Liittschwager (Photographer), E. O. Wilson (Photographer)


Twelve inches by twelve inches by twelve inches, the cubic foot is a relatively tiny unit of measure compared to the whole world. With every step, we disturb and move through cubic foot after cubic foot. But behold the cubic foot in nature—from coral reefs to cloud forests to tidal pools—even in that finite space you can see the multitude of creatures that make up a vibrant ecosystem.

For A World in One Cubic Foot, esteemed nature photographer David Liittschwager took a bright green metal cube—measuring precisely one cubic foot—and set it in various ecosystems around the world, from Costa Rica to Central Park. Working with local scientists, he measured what moved through that small space in a period of twenty-four hours. He then photographed the cube’s setting...

Biodiversity (Papers from the 1st National Forum on Biodiversity, September 1986, Washington, D.C.)

Biodiversity (Papers from the 1st National Forum on Biodiversity, September 1986, Washington, D.C.)
by Edward O. Wilson (Editor), Frances M. Peter (Editor)


This important book for scientists and nonscientists alike calls attention to a most urgent global problem: the rapidly accelerating loss of plant and animal species to increasing human population pressure and the demands of economic development. Based on a major conference sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences and the Smithsonian Institution, "Biodiversity" creates a systematic framework for analyzing the problem and searching for possible solutions.

Climate Change and Biodiversity

Climate Change and Biodiversity
by Thomas E. Lovejoy (Editor), Lee Hannah (Editor)


Leading researchers discuss what is now known about the effects of climate change on the natural world. They examine recent trends in and projections about climate change; ways that particular organisms are responding to climate change; conservation challenges, including social and policy issues; and more.

"This book will be a milestone in the emerging discipline of climate change biology. No issue is more important for the global environment; the impressive line-up of experts here gives it definitive coverage."—Edward O. Wilson, Harvard University   

"A well-written treatise on the past, present, and future effects of climate change on plant and animal biodiversity. . . . It is destined to become a classic."—Choice 

What's So Good About Biodiversity: A Call for Better Reasoning About Nature's Value  (Volume 19)

What's So Good About Biodiversity: A Call for Better Reasoning About Nature's Value (Volume 19)
by Donald S. Maier (Author)


There has been a deluge of material on biodiversity, starting from a trickle back in the mid-1980's. However, this book is entirely unique in its treatment of the topic. It is unique in its meticulously crafted, scientifically informed, philosophical examination of the norms and values that are at the heart of discussions about biodiversity. And it is unique in its point of view, which is the first to comprehensively challenge prevailing views about biodiversity and its value. According to those dominant views, biodiversity is an extremely good thing – so good that it has become the emblem of natural value. The book's broader purpose is to use biodiversity as a lens through which to view the nature of natural value. It first examines, on their own terms, the arguments for why...

Biodiversity, Ecosystem Functioning, and Human Wellbeing: An Ecological and Economic Perspective (Oxford Biology)

Biodiversity, Ecosystem Functioning, and Human Wellbeing: An Ecological and Economic Perspective (Oxford Biology)
by Shahid Naeem (Editor), Daniel E. Bunker (Editor), Andy Hector (Editor), Michel Loreau (Editor), Charles Perrings (Editor)


How will biodiversity loss affect ecosystem functioning, ecosystem services, and human well-being?

In an age of accelerating biodiversity loss, this timely and critical volume summarizes recent advances in biodiversity-ecosystem functioning research and explores the economics of biodiversity and ecosystem services. The book starts by summarizing the development of the basic science and provides a meta-analysis that quantitatively tests several biodiversity and ecosystem functioning hypotheses. It then describes the natural science foundations of biodiversity and ecosystem functioning research including: quantifying functional diversity, the development of the field into a predictive science, the effects of stability and complexity, methods to quantify mechanisms by which diversity...

The Living Landscape: Designing for Beauty and Biodiversity in the Home Garden

The Living Landscape: Designing for Beauty and Biodiversity in the Home Garden
by Rick Darke (Author), Douglas W. Tallamy (Author)


A home garden is often seen as separate from the natural world surrounding it. In truth, it is actually just one part of a larger landscape that is made up of many living layers. And the replacement of the rich layers of native flora with turf grass greatly diminishes a garden’s biological diversity and ecological function.

The Living Landscape seeks to reverse this trend by showing gardeners how to create a landscape that is full of life. Written by Rick Darke and Douglas W. Tallamy, two of the most important voices in sustainability and horticulture, it is the definitive guide to designing a beautiful, biodiverse home garden. The authors first explain the layers of the landscape and what role the plants within them plays in the larger environment, from providing berries...

© 2014 BrightSurf.com