Nav: Home

Study reveals critical role of evolutionary processes in species coexistence and diversity

May 19, 2009

Santa Barbara, California - A team of researchers, addressing long-standing conflicts in ecology and evolutionary science, has provided key directions for the future of community ecology. The team comprehensively synthesized emerging work that applies knowledge of evolutionary relationships among different species--phylogenetics--to understanding species interactions, ecosystems and biodiversity.

The work, published online in Ecology Letters, was conducted by a subgroup of researchers participating in an interdisciplinary working group convened by the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) at the University of California, Santa Barbara. The research was supported by funding from NCEAS, the Long-Term Ecological Research Network Office, the National Science Foundation and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

"For a long time, ecologists ignored the importance of evolutionary processes in understanding how species coexist and how diversity is maintained," said Jeannine Cavender-Bares, a professor at the University of Minnesota, and lead author of the study. "But ecological processes we observe in the present are deeply influenced by evolutionary processes in the past. Thanks to the increasing availability of large DNA and phylogenetic databases, we now have the tools to bring an evolutionary perspective into ecology."

NCEAS hosts hundreds of scientists a year who analyze vast amounts of existing information from numerous prior research studies, in order to look for patterns and make new discoveries. This approach is especially effective for addressing complicated questions like this one.

The researchers synthesized over 180 major studies from both fields, and developed a comprehensive overview of the forces driving community organization, and the role evolution plays in the assembly of these communities.

"What's truly exciting is how we are beginning to accumulate evidence that community structure and interactions through time can feedback to promote or constrain diversification of species," said Ken Kozak, also a professor at the University of Minnesota. The blurring of boundaries between classical community ecology and biogeography has been key to recent progress in community ecology."

"Essentially, we're going back to the perspective of early naturalists, but with a computational rigor that was never before possible," according to Cavender-Bares. "This basic understanding of the causes and consequences of community structure has never been more important."

In the face of increasing habitat destruction around the world, these tools will prove critical to managing and restoring Earth's flora and fauna.

-end-



Wiley
Rethinking role of viruses in coral reef ecosystems
Viruses are thought to frequently kill their host bacteria, especially at high microbial density.
Sequestering blue carbon through better management of coastal ecosystems
Focusing on the management of carbon stores within vegetated coastal habitats provides an opportunity to mitigate some aspects of global warming.
Tiny bacterium provides window into whole ecosystems
MIT research on Prochlorococcus, the most abundant life form in the oceans, shows the bacteria's metabolism evolved in a way that may have helped trigger the rise of other organisms, to form a more complex marine ecosystem with overall greater biomass.
Road salt alternatives alter aquatic ecosystems
Organic additives found in road salt alternatives -- such as those used in the commercial products GeoMelt and Magic Salt -- act as a fertilizer to aquatic ecosystems, promoting the growth of algae and organisms that eat algae, according to new research published today in the Journal of Applied Ecology.
Marine ecosystems show resilience to climate disturbance
Climate change is one of the most powerful stressors threatening marine biomes.
Ecosystems in the southeastern US are vulnerable to climate change
At least several southeastern US ecosystems are highly vulnerable to the impacts of present and future climate change, according to two new USGS reports on research conducted by scientists with Interior Department's Southeast Climate Science Center.
Islands and their ecosystems
Juliano Sarmento Cabral comes from a country with a tropical-subtropical climate.
Restoring ecosystems -- how to learn from our mistakes
In a joint North European and North American study led by Swedish researcher Christer Nilsson, a warning is issued of underdocumented results of ecological restorations.
Beach replenishment may have 'far reaching' impacts on ecosystems
UC San Diego biologists who examined the biological impact of replenishing eroded beaches with offshore sand found that such beach replenishment efforts could have long-term negative impacts on coastal ecosystems.
Overfishing increases fluctuations in aquatic ecosystems
Overfishing reduces fish populations and promotes smaller sizes in fish.

Best Science Podcasts 2017

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2017. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.

Now Playing: Radiolab

Truth Trolls
Today, a third story of folks relentlessly searching for the truth. But this time, the truth seekers are an unlikely bunch... internet trolls.


Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Rethinking School
For most of modern history, humans have placed smaller humans in institutions called schools. But what parts of this model still work? And what must change? This hour, TED speakers rethink education.TED speakers include teacher Tyler DeWitt, social entrepreneur Sal Khan, international education expert Andreas Schleicher, and educator Linda Cliatt-Wayman.