Conservative Theory Linking Biodiversity And Habitat Size Challenged By Research Scientists

ecosystemIs it not amazing that just a square meter of a patch of grass contains many species of plants? What factors control the number of species that could exist in an ecosystem? This question has found its place among the 25 most important science questions that have not yet been resolved. It is important due to a couple of reasons: one is that the answer helps one to understand nature better and, secondly, the value that natural ecosystems add to mankind as a whole. It is equally unbelievable to realize the fact that the sum total value of all the goods and services provided by natural ecosystems is projected to exceed the GDP of the entire planet.

In the past 5 decades, conservative theorists of ecology have maintained that the number of coexisting species in a specific area is directly proportional to the increase in the heterogeneous nature of the conditions of the environment. Under the guidance of Professor Ronen Kadmon of the Silberman Life Sciences Institute at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, two students, Michael Kalyuzhny and Omri Allouche conducted research to study this principle in detail. The study was conducted in collaboration with two other professors, Manuel Pizarro and Gregorio Moreno-Rueda of the Universidad de Granada.

According to the study, the research team has claimed that in such a heterogeneous environment that plays host to many different types of habitats, the resources are less and the area that is suited to the species is smaller, and these factors render them more susceptible to local extinction. They formed the hypothesis that excessive heterogeneity that is present in a specific local habitat may have an important role to play in the reduction of the number of species.

This hypothetical theory that was put forward was examined on the basis of both empirical analyses and mathematical models of natural ecosystems. Multiple numbers of datasets of both plant and animal species from various locations around the world were subjected to a meta-analysis to determine the researchers’ claim.

After a thorough examination of the claim and analysis of the data, it was found out that the researchers’ claim was indeed true: with an increase in the heterogeneous nature of the habitat, the rate at which species became extinct increased and this caused reduction in the number of species.

These revelations assume great importance in the light of biological diversity and its conservation. The current trend of conserving habitats that display considerable heterogeneity and even going to the extent of increasing the heterogeneity of habitats may have effects that are counterproductive. This is more probable in those landscapes that have a limited size, typical examples being nature reserves.

A majority of ecosystems in the world and the species that occupy these ecosystems are both under intense pressure of increasing human activity. In this dire situation, it is important that the landscapes are managed with both skill and intelligence. This study has provided a lot of insight into the selection and management of areas for the purpose of conservation to the policy makers and scientists.

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