Monday, August 15, 2011

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. More >>>

Location:Cayman Islands