Ecosystems cope with stress more effectively the greater the biodiversity

Sep 05, 2012

Ecosystems with a high degree of biodiversity can cope with more stress, such as higher temperatures or increasing salt concentrations, than those with less biodiversity. They can also maintain their services for longer, as botanists and ecologists from the universities of Zurich and Göttingen have discovered. Their study provides the first evidence of the relationship between stress intensity and ecosystem functioning.

Higher and increasing salt concentrations are stress factors that many ecosystems face today in the wake of climate change. However, do all ecosystems react to stress in the same way and what impact does stress have on , such as biomass production? and ecologists from the universities of Zurich and Göttingen demonstrate that a high level of biodiversity aids .

Higher number of species leads to greater stress resistance

The scientists studied a total of 64 species of single-celled from the SAG Culture Collection of Algae in Göttingen. These are at the bottom of the food chain and absorb environmentally harmful CO2 via photosynthesis. "The more species of microalgae there are in a system, the more robust the system is under moderate stress compared to those with fewer species," says first author Bastian Steudel, explaining one of the results. Systems with a higher number of species can thus keep their biomass production stable for longer than those with less biodiversity.

In all, the researchers studied six different intensities of two stress gradients. In the case of very high intensities, the positive effects of biodiversity decreased or ceased altogether. However, increasing stress in systems with few species had a considerably more negative impact than in those with high biodiversity levels. "The study shows that a high degree of biodiversity under stress is especially important to maintain biomass production," says Steudel's PhD supervisor Michael Kessler, summing up the significance of the research project.

Explore further: Climate change costing soybean farmers

More information: Bastian Steudel, Andy Hector, Thomas Friedl, Christian Löfke, Maike Lorenz, Moritz Wesche, Michael Kessler. Biodiversity effects on ecosystem functioning change along environmental stress gradients. Ecology Letters. 4 September, 2012. doi: 10.1111/j.1461-0248.2012.01863.x

Related Stories

The grass is always greener

Aug 19, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Recent study of grasslands shows that species variety more important to ecosystem services than previously thought.

Microbial societies do not like oligarchy

Mar 12, 2009

Bacteria and humans tend to live in highly diverse and complex communities. Most interestingly, bacteria and humans appear to prefer to live in a democracy. This is the basic message of the paper entitled "Initial community ...

Stability and Diversity in Ecosystems

Aug 03, 2007

Is biodiversity important for predicting human impacts on ecosystems? If diverse ecosystems were as a consequence more stable, the answer would be yes.

Common fungicide wreaks havoc on freshwater ecosystems

May 16, 2012

Chlorothalonil, one of the world's most common fungicides used pervasively on food crops and golf courses, was lethal to a wide variety of freshwater organisms in a new study, University of South Florida researchers said ...

Recommended for you

Climate change costing soybean farmers

3 hours ago

Even during a good year, soybean farmers nationwide are, in essence, taking a loss. That's because changes in weather patterns have been eating into their profits and taking quite a bite: $11 billion over ...

Equatorial fish babies in hot water

10 hours ago

Scientists have discovered that rising ocean temperatures slow the development of baby fish around the equator, raising concerns about the impact of global warming on fish and fisheries in the tropics.

Beneficial insect virus gets boost as crop pest fighter

11 hours ago

Common baking ingredients may offer a way to bolster the effectiveness of Cydia pomonella granulovirus (CpGV), a natural insect pathogen that's been commercially formulated to kill codling moth larvae, a ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.