UT researchers reveal shortcoming in decisions on environment and biodiversity
Research revealed that decisions regarding the environment and biodiversity are largely made without sufficient data. The world’s leading journal Science published a research conducted by scientists from Canada, Germany, Israel and Estonia who gathered a representative global dataset to study the relations between biodiversity and the productivity of the ecosystem in grasslands.
In the past centuries, humankind has had a drastic effect on planet Earth’s biodiversity. It is a common view that various aspects of ecosystems, such as productivity, depend greatly on biodiversity. Knowledge about such relations gives better understanding about nature and helps to better organise the protection and use of nature.
“Interestingly, it turns out that there is in fact relatively little reliable data from nature about the relations between biodiversity and the functions of ecosystems and important decisions regarding the environment and biodiversity are made based on insufficient data or assumptions or very rough model data,” said Professor of Plant Ecology at the University of Tartu Martin Zobel.
So the initiative group of researchers from four universities—Thompson Rivers University in Canada, the University of Bayreuth in Germany, Tel Aviv University in Israel and the University of Tartu in Estonia—set out to gather a representative global dataset to study the relations between biodiversity and the productivity of the ecosystem in grasslands. In order to do this, they created a voluntary network of scientists, HerbDivNet, which so far includes researchers from 19 countries. The network is led by Dr Lauchlan Fraser from Canada.
The first big step in analysing the data has now been made. The research was published in the world’s leading academic journal Science in this year’s 17 July issue and it shows how the maximum biodiversity of grassland plant species occurs in so called moderate productivity.
“Ecosystems which are either unproductive or significantly productive have much less plant species. This relation applies to the middle latitudes as well as the tropics and it reflects the main pattern in nature which needs to be considered when preparing all kinds of models and prognoses,” said one of the Estonian co–authors Martin Zobel and added that even though the first shot was a so to say bullseye, he hopes that the most interesting outcomes of the analysis are yet to come.
The Estonian co–authors of the research are researchers from the University of Tartu’s Institute of Ecology and Earth Sciences Martin Zobel, Mari Moora and Kadri Koorem. Several other colleagues contributed.
The article “Worldwide Evidence of a Unimodal Relationship Between Productivity and Plant Species Richness” was published in the 17 July 2015 issue of Science.
Additional information: Martin Zobel, Professor of Plant Ecology at the University of Tartu, tel.: 737 6223, e–mail: martin.zobel [ät] ut.ee.