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Measuring Biodiversity

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  1. Measuring Biodiversity Biology/Env S 204 Spring 2009

  2. Measuring Biodiversity • Genetic Diversity • Species Diversity • Taxonomic Diversity • Surveys • Patterns in Time • Patterns in Space • Dimensionless Patterns

  3. Measuring Biodiversity: Genetic Diversity • Extremely important, but very time- and resource-intensive to measure accurately • Focus tends to be on individual species • Can’t do this for fossils • Of greatest utility in conservation and management of rare species • Preservation of habitat for rare species often beneficial for other species

  4. Measuring Biodiversity:Species Diversity • Two main aspects: species richness and species abundance • Species richness = the number of species in an area; often the only information available, depends on baseline taxonomic data • Species abundance = relative commonness of species, or evenness; requires baseline ecological data

  5. Measuring Biodiversity:Taxonomic Diversity • Taxonomic diversity= richness of higher taxonomic categories (number of major lineages is a rough measure) • Distinctness of evolving lineages is an important component of biodiversity (Species X is an example) • Some assign a higher conservation value to ancient or very distinct lineages

  6. Measuring Biodiversity:Surveys • Ideally should combine both taxonomy and ecology • Depends on floras (ID guides and descriptions for all plants in an area), faunas (= floras, but for animals), checklists, data from permanent plots, good natural history observations, satellite images, GIS data

  7. Measuring Biodiversity:Surveys • ATBI = All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory • Some relatively large areas representing different habitats would be completely inventoried for all groups • Analyses would reveal patterns of diversity, abundance, interactions, etc. and a baseline for assessment of biodiversity in other similar areas

  8. Measuring Biodiversity:Patterns in Time • Increase in total diversity over evolutionary time 2) Succession 3) Seasonal variation

  9. Measuring Biodiversity:1) Increase in total diversity • Life first evolved on Earth about 3.8 bya • Eukaryotes appeared by 1.5-1.25 bya • Bursts of diversification associated with new adaptations or opportunities • Overall pattern is one of increasing diversity in evolutionary time, despite background extinctions and five mass extinction events

  10. Measuring Biodiversity:2) Succession • Change after a disturbance; often species replace each other in a more or less orderly sequence • Succession occurs in all natural communities • Immigration and competitive displacement are fundamental processes in succession • Creates both spatial and temporal patterns following disturbances

  11. Measuring Biodiversity:3) seasonal variation • Annual cycles of diversity • Migration, dormancy/hibernation, and endangered phenomena are included here

  12. Measuring Biodiversity:3) annual migrations • Many birds, some insects migrate on an annual basis • One study showed that up to 60% of the bird species in an Ohio forest were migratory • In the tropics, birds will migrate seasonally up and down the mountains

  13. Measuring Biodiversity:3) dormancy/hibernation • Many members of the biota disappear physiologically during the winter or drought periods • In desert regions, annual plants exist as seeds until sufficient rain falls and then they complete their life cycles in weeks • Lots of diversity is hidden this way

  14. Measuring Biodiversity:3) endangered phenomena • Endangered phenomena = a spectacular aspect of the life history of an animal or plant species involving large numbers of individuals that is threatened with impoverishment or decline • The species itself may not be endangered but the phenomenon is

  15. Measuring Biodiversity:3) endangered phenomena • Examples include: ecological diversity associated with flooding rivers; the 17-year and 13-year cicada emergence events in North America; animal migrations; the existence of species in huge herds

  16. Measuring Biodiversity:Patterns in Space • Species-Area Curve • Habitat Diversity • Latitudinal gradients • Areas of endemism • Disturbance

  17. Measuring Biodiversity:1) Species-Area Curve • You will find more species if you sample a larger area • Basic relationship remains even at different scales • Curves may differ depending on islands vs. continents, areas with different histories • One of the earliest-recognized relationships

  18. Measuring Biodiversity:2) habitat diversity • The greater the habitat variety in an area, the greater the species diversity • Also, the more complex the community, the greater the species diversity • Related to the Species-Area Curve and regional diversity

  19. Measuring Biodiversity:3) latitudinal gradients • The inventory of species declines as you move away from the Equator, north or south • More species in the tropics than in higher-latitude communities • True for most groups; exceptions include brown algae, coniferous trees, salamanders, penguins, waterfowl • Are analogous altitudinal and depth gradients

  20. Measuring Biodiversity:4) areas of endemism • Endemic = found only in one geographic area or habitat • Areas with a high proportion of unique species not found elsewhere are “hotspots” (areas of endemism) • Non-randomly distributed on Earth • Islands often have a high proportion of endemic species (due to isolation)

  21. Measuring Biodiversity:4) areas of endemism • Endemism in temperate regions is concentrated in areas of Mediterranean climate (California, South Africa, Chile) • Patterns of endemism can vary greatly but are correlated among mammals, birds and reptiles • Plants tend to speciate in smaller areas than vertebrates, however

  22. Measuring Biodiversity:5) disturbance • Diversity peaks over intermediate disturbance levels • Patches with very high or very low rates of disturbance will have lower diversity • Many types of disturbance and different scales • This pattern relies on small-scale disturbance (not mass extinctions)

  23. Measuring Biodiversity:Dimensionless patterns • These are patterns not rooted in space or time per se • Examples include: reproductive rate, longevity, body mass/metabolism ratios • Food Webs and Chains: animal diversity declines as trophic level increases, usually 3-4 trophic levels present, but 5 or 6 are rare • Real webs tend to have relatively few omnivores