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Published: 07 February 2013, Farming Online
‘Integrative biologists’ from Canada’s University of Guelph have warned of “the perils of ecosystem breakdown,” following the publication of a research paper demonstrating how biodiversity protects ecosystems.
The researchers’ work, published in february’s Nature journal, suggests farmers and resource managers should not rely on seemingly stable but vulnerable single-crop monocultures. Instead the researchers recommend moves that encourage more kinds of plants in fields and more wooded areas as a buffer against sudden ecosystem disturbance.
The recommendations of Guelph professors Andrew MacDougall and Kevin McCann are based on the findings of a 10-year study, which they said lend weight to “aesthetic and moral arguments for maintaining species biodiversity.”
Their research confirms that having more species in an area helps ecosystems avoid irreversible collapse after human disturbances such as climate change or pest invasion occur.
Professor MacDougall commented that having a range of species is “more important than we think. We need to protect biodiversity.”
Unlike other scientists usually relying on short-term, artificial study plots, the researchers studied long-standing pasture grasslands on southern Vancouver Island for 10 years. The 10-hectare site owned by the Nature Conservancy of Canada consists of oak savannah where fires have been suppressed for about 150 years.