(Santa Barbara, California) Accelerating rates of species extinction pose problems for humanity, according to a comprehensive study headed by a biologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara and published in the journal Nature this week.
The groundbreaking statistical analysis demonstrates that the preservation of biodiversity both the number and type of species is needed to maintain ecological balance and "services." The concern about losing numbers of species versus types of species has been an area of scientific controversy for over a decade.
"By combining the results of more than a hundred studies performed over two decades, we were able to conclusively show that the extinction of species from our planet will change the way pests and diseases are controlled, organic wastes are broken down and recycled, food is produced by ecosystems, and water is purified," said Bradley J. Cardinale, first author and associate professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology at UCSB.
The 111 field, greenhouse, and laboratory studies that were analyzed by the authors came from experiments performed on species from around the world. "Until recently, scientists knew a lot about the causes of extinctions, but surprisingly little about their consequences," said Diane S. Srivastava, second author and professor in the Department of Zoology at the University of British Columbia.
Cardinale explained that one-third to one-half of all the species on the planet are expected to be lost in the next 100 years, and that currently species are going extinct at thousands of times faster than they have historically. The losses are due to the cutting down of rainforests, development, pollution, and the introduction of exotic species that take over the niches of indigenous species.
"Our study shows that biodiversity matters," said Srivastava. "Ecosystems with more species function better, that is, they are more
Contact: Gail Gallessich
University of California - Santa Barbara