News / Science & Technology

    Study: Nature Creates Buffer Against Climate Change

    Biodiversity promotes healthy ecosystems

    Plant diversity is key to a healthy ecosystem and a buffer against desertification in Samburu National Reserve, Kenya.
    Plant diversity is key to a healthy ecosystem and a buffer against desertification in Samburu National Reserve, Kenya.

    Multimedia

    Audio
    Rosanne Skirble

    The most extensive study ever of biodiversity confirms what scientists have long believed, that natural ecosystems are healthier and more resilient when they support a large variety of plant life.



    Reported in the Journal Science, this globe-spanning research finds that abundant forms of plant life keep soils more fertile and productive, and help to buffer ecosystems against the stresses of a changing climate.   

    The study focused on semi-arid ecosystems which cover 40 percent of the planet and support 40 percent of the human population. Co-author David Eldridge, with the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences at Australia’s University of New South Wales, says these dry lands are also among the ecosystems most at risk “from changes in management, changes in rainfall, changes in climate.”

    An international team of scientists studied dry lands on every continent, except Antarctica.  Eldridge points out that on each, they marked out 30-by-30-meter plots, inventoried the plant life within and measured how it cycled carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus, elements considered essential for life on earth.

    “We also measured other attributes that we thought might be related, things like temperature, soil texture... how much sand or clay the soil has got in it, slope, latitude, longitude, all those attributes and used a modeling system to be able to pick out what some of the drivers were.”

    Eldridge says while there were differences among the areas - from the dry woodlands in Western Australia to the high alpine grasslands in Chile - the overall findings were remarkably similar.

    “Even with this huge diversity of different types of plant communities, the fact that when we analyzed our data from more than 200 sites, that even in these really diverse communities, diversity of plants came out as being a highly significant driver of how functional the soil was.”

    And that wide variety of plant species was even more important than other factors, Eldridge says, such as annual rainfall and microbes in the soil. Loss of biodiversity reduces those services the ecosystem can provide.

    “If we go from a system where we have a lot of species to very, very few species, then we know that the ability of the soil to produce carbon, to allow water to infiltrate to hold together, actually break down.”

    The changing climate is also likely to reduce plant diversity and increase the areas affected by the desertification now underway in many developing countries. Eldridge says, for example, in a warmer world, sand content in soils would be expected to rise, lowering its productivity.

    "What this shows is that anything that results in increased temperatures is ultimately going to reduce the functionality of dry land soils. Our diverse community of plants is providing a buffer against increased climate change.”

    You May Like

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora