Major study shows species loss destroys essential ecosystems
Publisher: Climate & Capitalism
Date Written: 30/11/2017
Year Published: 2017
Resource Type: Article
Long term research by German ecologists proves that loss of biodiversity has "direct, unpleasant consequences for mankind."
Professor Wolfgang Weisser from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) reports on two unexpected findings of the long-term study: Biodiversity influences almost half the processes in the ecosystem, and intensive grassland management does not result in higher yields than high biodiversity.
An ecosystem provides humans with natural "services", such as the fertility of the soil, the quality of the groundwater, the production of food, and pollination by insects, which is essential for many fruits. Hence, intact ecosystems are crucial for the survival of all living things. What functional significance therefore does the extinction of species have? Can the global loss of species ultimately lead to the poorer "functioning" of ecosystems? Professor Weisser from the Chair for Terrestrial Ecology at the TUM has summarized the findings of the long-term "Jena Experiment" in a 70-page article in the journal Basic and Applied Ecology.
"One unique aspect of the Jena Experiment is the fact that we performed our experiments and analyses over 15 years", explains Prof. Weisser. "Because the influence of biodiversity is only visible after a delay, we were only able to observe certain effects from 2006 or 2007 onwards -- i.e. four or five years after the beginning of the project."
The effects of biodiversity became correspondingly more pronounced over time in the Jena Experiment: In species-rich communities, the positive effects, such as carbon storage in the ground, microbial respiration, or the development of soil fauna only became more pronounced over time. On the other hand, the negative effects of monoculture also only became visible later on.
"This means that the negative effects of current species extinctions will only become fully perceptible in a few years," warns Weisser.
If a habitat is destroyed due to human intervention, a species usually does not go extinct immediately, but instead some time later. According to these findings, this extinction then has a delayed effect on the material cycles.
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