Ecosystems with higher levels of diversity tend to better cope with more stress than those with less
A new study published in Ecology Letters claims that ecosystems with higher levels of diversity tend to better cope with more stress than those with less. This means that they are also likely to be more resistant to climate changes, such as increased periods of drought.
The results are based on analysis of 64 species of single-celled microalgae and how they responded to different stress factors (e.g. higher temperatures).
According to Steudel of Zurich University, and one of the lead authors of the report: “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.”
Co-author Kessler further suggests that: “The study shows that a high degree of biodiversity under stress is especially important to maintain biomass production.”
The results are consistent with findings elsewhere. For example a study published last month in the journal Nature demonstrated how diverse grasslands respond better to drought than less diverse communities or monocultures.
Drought reduces plant productivity, induces widespread plant mortality and limits the geographic distribution of plant species. As climates warm and precipitation patterns shift in the future, science‘s understanding of plant drought tolerance will be vital to predicting future ecosystem resilience to climate change. This is particularly of importance in relation to the world’s 11,000 grass species, which dominate a large fraction of the terrestrial biosphere.
To better understand drought tolerance in grasslands, we assessed physiological drought tolerance for 426 grass species. Results reveal the basic patterns of physiological drought tolerance in grasses and grasslands. Throughout a broad bioclimatic range of grasslands, local species may help maintain ecosystem functioning in the face of drought, even without large migrations of grass species.
Sources: Mongabay and Nature