Wildlife variety is the spice of life, say scientists

asoning: that we like some of it and that it is wrong to let it go extinct. Here we suggest, along with the findings of other ecologists, that there is another, complementary reason to preserve diversity - it plays a role in determining the way the environment works.

These results provide the type of general ecological principles that need to be considered when setting conservation and habitat management policy."

First author, Professor Michel Loreau of the Ecole Normale Superieure, Paris, said:

"This paper makes a significant contribution to resolving the debate about ecosystem functioning by providing a novel method and new data that show how complementary interactions between species appear to play the stronger role."

The EU-funded BIODEPTH project, which ran from 1996 to 1999, performed an identical experiment in eight different countries which assembled miniature experimental grasslands at field sites around Europe from Greece to Sweden (4).

The "mini-meadows" varied in plant diversity to mimic the gradual loss of species seen throughout Europe.

Authors Drs Loreau and Hector took a new approach to the analysis of the BIODEPTH data, whose key findings were published in Science in November 1999, by adapting a classic method normally used to analyse evolutionary changes.

A commentary accompanying publication of the earlier BIODEPTH results in Science praised the project for its high degree of multinational collaboration within European science.


Contact: Tom Miller
Imperial College London

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