Biodiversity Important For Life

26 April, 2011 at 11:32 | Posted in Environmental issues, Nature, Science, sustainable development | Leave a comment
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By Kat Piper
Epoch Times Staff

With some scientists predicting that species loss is happening so fast we are heading for another mass extinction, ecologists have been trying to work out just what effect this loss of biodiversity would have on our lives and why conservation could be important.

While scientists have known for a long time that ecosystems with many plant species in them—those with a high biodiversity—are better at removing pollutants from the water and soil than ecosystems with fewer species, no one has understood why.

In a study on algae biodiversity and water quality published in the April 7 issue of Nature, ecologist Bradley Cardinale, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan, says he has recently solved this mystery.

In an experiment, Cardinale found that streams with a high biodiversity of algae were much more efficient at removing nitrate—a common pollutant found in fertilizers and sewage—than streams with a single algae species.

This is because each algae species occupies a different “mini-habitat,” or niche, in the stream, for example fast-flowing water or calm pools. So as biodiversity increases, each niche is filled by a different species of algae, biomass increases, and more of the overall stream habitat is able to be cleaned.

“This is the first study that nails the mechanism by which biodiversity promotes water quality. And by nailing the mechanism, it provides solid evidence of a cause-and-effect relationship between biodiversity and water quality that was previously missing,” Cardinale said in a press release.

Read more: Biodiversity Important For Life | Science | Epoch Times

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