Scientific revolution
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Light Shed On South Pole Dinosaurs

Why Plant 'Clones' Aren't Identical

Puffins 'Scout Out' Best Migration Route

New Conducting Properties Discovered in Bacteria-Produced Wires

Researchers Unravel the Magic of Flocks of Starlings

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Billion-Year-Old Piece of North America Traced Back to Antarctica

You Can Count On This: Math Ability Is Inborn, New Research Suggests

Scientist Develops Virus That Targets HIV: Using a Virus to Kill a Virus

DNA Building Blocks Can Be Made in Space, NASA Evidence Suggests

Polar Dinosaur Tracks Open New Trail to Past

New Eruption Discovered at Undersea Volcano, After Successfully Forecasting the Event

Study Builds On Plausible Scenario for Origin of Life On Earth

Scientists Have New Help Finding Their Way Around Brain's Nooks and Crannies

Astronomy: A Spectacular Spiral in Leo

Hydrogen-Powered Symbiotic Bacteria Found in Deep-Sea Hydrothermal Vent Mussels

Deep Recycling in Earth Faster Than Thought

Engineers Reverse E. Coli Metabolism for Quick Production of Fuels, Chemicals

Genetically Modified 'Serial Killer' T-Cells Obliterate Tumors in Leukemia Patients

Biodiversity Key to Earth's Life-Support Functions in a Changing World

Darkest Known Exoplanet: Alien World Is Blacker Than Coal

Arctic Ice Melt Could Pause for Several Years, Then Resume Again

Like Humans, Chimps Are Born With Immature Forebrains

Decade-Long Study Reveals Recurring Patterns of Viruses in the Open Ocean

Biodiversity Key to Earth's Life-Support Functions in a Changing World
The biological diversity of organisms on Earth is not just something we enjoy when taking a walk through a blossoming meadow in spring; it is also the basis for countless products and services provided by nature, including food, building materials, and medicines as well as the self-purifying qualities of water and protection against erosion. These so-called ecosystem services are what makes Earth inhabitable for humans. They are based on ecological processes, such as photosynthesis, the production of biomass, or nutrient cycles.

Since biodiversity is on the decline, both on a global and a local scale, researchers are asking the question as to what role the diversity of organisms plays in maintaining these ecological processes and thus in providing the ecosystem's vital products and services.

In an international research group led by Prof. Dr. Michel Loreau from Canada, ecologists from ten different universities and research institutes, including Prof. Dr. Michael Scherer-Lorenzen from the University of Freiburg, compiled findings from numerous biodiversity experiments and reanalyzed them. These experiments simulated the loss of plant species and attempted to determine the consequences for the functioning of ecosystems, most of them coming to the conclusion that a higher level of biodiversity is accompanied by an increase in ecosystem processes. However, the findings were always only valid for a certain combination of environmental conditions present at the locations at which the experiments were conducted and for a limited range of ecosystem processes.

In a study published in the current issue of the journal Nature, the research group investigated the extent to which the positive effects of diversity still apply under changing environmental conditions and when a multitude of processes are taken into account. They found that 84 percent of the 147 plant species included in the experiments promoted ecological processes in at least one case.

The more years, locations, ecosystem processes, and scenarios of global change -- such as global warming or land use intensity -- the experiments took into account, the more plant species were necessary to guarantee the functioning of the ecosystems. Moreover, other species were always necessary to keep the ecosystem processes running under the different combinations of influencing factors.

These findings indicate that much more biodiversity is necessary to keep ecosystems functioning in a world that is changing ever faster. The protection of diversity is thus a crucial factor in maintaining Earth's life-support functions.

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