Less abundant species of animals and plants are organised in ghettos to survive

December 20, 2019

An international research team in which Spanish experts participate has shown that sparse species are associated spatially in 90 % of the animal and plant communities studied.

"Animal and plant communities are organised in a similar way to cities, ghettos or ethnic neighbourhoods," the researchers say. "This organisation could be behind the persistence of rare species since they could avoid the competitive pressure of the most abundant species, either because they cooperate with each other or because they prefer specific microhabitats or both at the same time," they point out.

The results of this research, published in Nature Ecology & Evolution, suggest a general explanation for the maintenance of biodiversity in competitive environments, clarifying the principle of competitive exclusion whereby species with the lowest competitive abilities should be excluded by more efficient competitors. "This pattern could explain how species that compete for the same resources are able to coexist," biologists say.

Spanish institutions participating in this study are the National Museum of Natural Sciences and the Doñana Biological Station (both of the CSIC), the University of Alcalá, the Complutense University of Madrid, the Rey Juan Carlos University, the Autonomous University of Madrid , the University of Castilla-La Mancha, the University of the Basque Country.

From conservation to the study of diseases

To carry out the study, more than three hundred worldwide ecological communities of mosses, herbs, trees, insects, arachnids and corals, among others, have been analysed.

The researchers explain that they used the network theory to detect ghettos or groups, while they applied numerical simulations to study the mechanisms that gave rise to them. The results of these simulations confirm that the grouping between sparse species is necessary to explain the coexistence patterns observed all around the world.

These findings may have profound implications for the understanding of the formation of ecological communities. Among their applications, experts highlight conservation planning or even the study of human diseases related to the intestinal microbiome, "where the coexistence of species is essential."

"However, the specific interactions and mechanisms that allow associations of rare species are still unknown, which should also boost a new research agenda in various fields of life sciences," researchers acknowledge.

Universidad Complutense de Madrid

Related Biodiversity Articles from Brightsurf:

Biodiversity hypothesis called into question
How can we explain the fact that no single species predominates?

Using the past to maintain future biodiversity
New research shows that safeguarding species and ecosystems and the benefits they provide for society against future climatic change requires effective solutions which can only be formulated from reliable forecasts.

Changes in farming urgent to rescue biodiversity
Humans depend on farming for their survival but this activity takes up more than one-third of the world's landmass and endangers 62% of all threatened species.

Predicting the biodiversity of rivers
Biodiversity and thus the state of river ecosystems can now be predicted by combining environmental DNA with hydrological methods, researchers from the University of Zurich and Eawag have found.

About the distribution of biodiversity on our planet
Large open-water fish predators such as tunas or sharks hunt for prey more intensively in the temperate zone than near the equator.

Bargain-hunting for biodiversity
The best bargains for conserving some of the world's most vulnerable salamanders and other vertebrate species can be found in Central Texas and the Appalachians, according to new conservation tools developed at the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS) at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Researchers solve old biodiversity mystery
The underlying cause for why some regions are home to an extremely large number of animal species may be found in the evolutionary adaptations of species, and how they limit their dispersion to specific natural habitats.

Biodiversity offsetting is contentious -- here's an alternative
A new approach to compensate for the impact of development may be an effective alternative to biodiversity offsetting -- and help nations achieve international biodiversity targets.

Biodiversity yields financial returns
Farmers could increase their revenues by increasing biodiversity on their land.

Biodiversity and wind energy
The location and operation of wind energy plants are often in direct conflict with the legal protection of endangered species.

Read More: Biodiversity News and Biodiversity Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.