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Plant species diversity plays an important role in ecosystem multifunctionality

Dryland in Peru
Dryland in Peru

Researchers have found that different plant species are very much essential to control the negative effects of climate change and desertification in the world’s drylands.

This research has been done by a team of scientists from 14 countries and published online in January 13 issue of the journal Science.

Researchers have based their results from the samples taken from different ecosystems in every continent except Antarctica. They have found that the diversity of ecosystems results in more improved performance of ecological functions. The same results have been found for carbon sequestration and soil health in different ecosystems. Sequestration is the chemical process of binding an ion.

“This is the most extensive study of the links between function and diversity ever undertaken,” says co-author Professor David Eldridge, of the UNSW School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences.

According to the study, dryland ecosystems have 41% of Earth’s land surface supporting 38% of its people and are more vulnerable to environmental changes and desertification.“Our findings suggest that plant species richness may be particularly important for maintaining ecosystem functions linked to carbon and nitrogen cycling, which sustain carbon sequestration and soil fertility,” says Eldridge.

“And because land degradation is often accompanied by the loss of soil fertility, plant species richness may also promote ecosystem resistance to desertification.”

Abstract of the scientific research is as follows,

Experiments suggest that biodiversity enhances the ability of ecosystems to maintain multiple functions, such as carbon storage, productivity, and the buildup of nutrient pools (multifunctionality). However, the relationship between biodiversity and multifunctionality has never been assessed globally in natural ecosystems. We report here on a global empirical study relating plant species richness and abiotic factors to multifunctionality in drylands, which collectively cover 41% of Earth’s land surface and support over 38% of the human population. Multifunctionality was positively and significantly related to species richness. The best-fitting models accounted for over 55% of the variation in multifunctionality and always included species richness as a predictor variable. Our results suggest that the preservation of plant biodiversity is crucial to buffer negative effects of climate change and desertification in drylands.


Fernando T. Maestre, José L. Quero, Nicholas J. Gotelli, Adrián Escudero, Victoria Ochoa, Manuel Delgado-Baquerizo, Miguel García-Gómez, Matthew A. Bowker, Santiago Soliveres, Cristina Escolar, Pablo García-Palacios, Miguel Berdugo, Enrique Valencia, Beatriz Gozalo, Antonio Gallardo, Lorgio Aguilera, Tulio Arredondo, Julio Blones, Bertrand Boeken, Donaldo Bran, Abel A. Conceição, Omar Cabrera, Mohamed Chaieb, Mchich Derak, David J. Eldridge, Carlos I. Espinosa, Adriana Florentino, Juan Gaitán, M. Gabriel Gatica, Wahida Ghiloufi, Susana Gómez-González, Julio R. Gutiérrez, Rosa M. Hernández, Xuewen Huang, Elisabeth Huber-Sannwald, Mohammad Jankju, Maria Miriti, Jorge Monerris, Rebecca L. Mau, Ernesto Morici, Kamal Naseri, Abelardo Ospina, Vicente Polo, Aníbal Prina, Eduardo Pucheta, David A. Ramírez-Collantes, Roberto Romão, Matthew Tighe, Cristian Torres-Díaz, James Val, José P. Veiga, Deli Wang, Eli Zaady, (2012). Plant Species Richness and Ecosystem Multifunctionality in Global Drylands. Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.1215442

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