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What Drives Biodiversity? It’s Temperature, According To Researchers

26 December 2016, 9:12 am EST By Kalyan Kumar Tech Times
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Earth likely to warm 2°C by end of this century

The uneven distribution and biodiversity on Earth had been a big puzzle. Now, a new study says biodiversity distribution is driven more by temperature differences as seen in the least diversity of plants and animals in arctic regions in contrast to the abundance in tropical latitudes where new organisms are discovered constantly.

The reason for tropics housing more species than higher latitudes has been intriguing most ecologists, according to Professor Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter from the University of Würzburg's Biocenter.

"Already about ten years ago, the publishers of Science declared this to be one of the 25 most important questions of science to be answered yet," he said.

The number of species living in an area is governed by the primary productivity of a habitat, which implies that a larger cake can "sustain more species than a smaller one," explains Marcell Peters, a Würzburg ecologist.

The study has been published in Nature.

Temperature Effect On Biodiversity

The hypothesis is that both evolution and speciation are driven by temperature with warmer climate attracting more species than colder regions.

These were examined by studies on selected species such as birds, bees, ants, or ferns in different regions as in North America, Europe, or the mountains of Alps.

Remote Sensing For Bio Diversity

Meanwhile, measuring of biodiversity by using remote sensing tools has been effective in the last 30 years in addition to many field studies.

According to a team of international researchers, opportunities in remote sensing hold enormous potential in assisting future biodiversity research.

This is because climate changes are best marked by changes in biodiversity as it captures the contemporary situation within ecosystems.

"To do this we need reliable data across large areas and close periods of time," said UFZ Landscape Ecologist PD Angela Lausch.

An example is the distribution of plant species being studied with satellite images to determine growth habit, leaf geometry, flower color on a bigger scale for area, and time.

Given the upcoming launch of hyperspectral satellite EnMAP (Environmental Mapping and Analysis Program) in 2018 to supply image data with high resolution, the scope of sensing is going to expand and it will measure more biochemical parameters including nitrogen, phosphate, or water in tissues of leaves.

Latitudinal Diversity Gradient

The reason of tropics having the greatest biodiversity on Earth in terms of variety and number with a diminishing trend toward the poles has been probed by scientists.

It was found that this latitudinal diversity gradient is indeed a good tool in taking measures for halting biodiversity loss and in protecting areas with a variety of species.

The study led by David Jablonski, from the University of Chicago's Geophysical Sciences department and colleagues at the University of California reconciled the conflicting ideas in a paper published in the The American Naturalist.

One idea states that local factors are shaping the biodiversity of a region, while in a few cases, lineages from outside are entering adjoining geographical to enhance the biodiversity of a region.

"The gradient involves mutually reinforcing causes — 'perfect storms' rather than a single mechanism," Jablonski explained.

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