An international team of researchers including professor Emmett Duffy of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science has published a comprehensive new analysis showing that loss of plant biodiversity disrupts the fundamental services that ecosystems provide to humanity.
This makes intuitive sense because different plants occupying the same niche each bring their own specializations of function that enable them to exploit different parts of that niche.
The team’s analysis shows that plant communities with many different species are nearly 1.5 times more productive than those with only one species (such as a cornfield or carefully tended lawn), and ongoing research finds even stronger benefits of diversity when the various other important natural services of ecosystems are considered. Diverse communities are also more efficient at capturing nutrients, light, and other limiting resources.
The analysis also suggests, based on laboratory studies of algae, that diverse plant communities generate oxygen—and take-up carbon dioxide—more than twice as fast as plant monocultures.
As humans shift more and more land into human uses the total biomass on the planet could substantially decline. In fact, that's probably already happened given the large areas now under human control. Though farming in more naturally barren regions could deliver the opposite effect of more biomass when extensive irrigation enables conversion of deserts into farm land.
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2011 March 07 10:31 PM Trends Agriculture|