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Thinking for a cooler world

Gianna Gruen | Ideas

Local biodiversity changes, but is not lost, study shows

With climate change and deforestation we typically focus on how biodiversity gets hit or disappears as a result. But a new study finds that biodiversity is not necessarily lost, but changes instead.

Forest in Northern Mozambique (Photo credit: CC BY 2.0: Maria Dornelas)

Forest in Northern Mozambique (Photo credit: CC BY 2.0: Maria Dornelas)

Maria Dornelas and her team from St Andrews University in Scotland investigated six million species living on land and in marine environments over the past 150 years. They found no distinctive pattern of species loss associated with any local community or ecosystem throughout this time. Instead they observed that species composition changed over time. The findings imply that a species is not necessarily under threat of extinction, just because it can’t be found in its “traditional” habitat any more. It may have simply been forced to migrate to another place – and not to its detriment. And this turnover of species in any given locale or community must have occurred faster than previously thought.

The researchers insist their findings do not dispute the fact that many species and habitats around the world are under threat. But they suggest that strategies to protect species should be revised to reflect the phenomenon of species turnover, which has so far been underestimated.


April 17, 2014