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  • New Method in Biodiversity Research

    Researchers at the university have tested a terrestrial ecological theory in aquatic communities for examining the relationships between biomass and diversity.
    “Changes in species diversity are duly followed by modifications in life-strategy composition,” contend in their recent article the members of the joint Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Research Group of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and the University of Debrecen. The article on the study of examining the relationships between diversity and biomass was published in Functional Ecology, one of the leading journals of ecological research.
    As early as 2013, researchers of the University of Debrecen proved that there was a connection between the quantity of biomass and the number of species in terrestrial plant communities; this time, they checked if a similar connection was also observable in the case of phytoplankton assemblages living in water bodies of very high species richness and, if so, what the explanation for this phenomenon could be. However, as opposed to the previous investigations based on numbers of species, now they studied the relationship and the background mechanisms responsible for its development through examining ecological strategies.
    New Method in Biodiversity Research 
    In their article, the researchers underlined that analyses based on functional groups might replace the analyses requiring a high level of taxonomical expertise demanding results at the level of species and sectio-s.
    “While in the case of examining phytoplankton assemblages at the species level, it is necessary to work with as many as a thousand species, during the application of the approach based on functional strategies, not more than 40 groups may crop up even according to the broadest system of categories. In addition, functionally based approaches can provide an opportunity to functionally compare communities that are often very different from one another in their species composition but very similar in their appearance,” said about the advantages biologist Péter Török, an associate professor of the Department of Ecology at the University of Debrecen and a member of the research group.
    The researchers have pointed out that that, in the case of phytoplankton communities, the relationship between biomass and species richness showed Grime’s humped-back curve. The findings clearly indicate that the changes occurring in the composition of functional groups act as a good proxy for phytoplankton species responses, which means that, for example,  during high increase of biomass (see toxic cyanobacterial blooms), parallel with the decrease of diversity, the diversity of functional groups also radically decreases.
    “Research based on functional features has been a routine practice in terrestrial plant ecology for decades but, in the ecological research of water bodies, it has become widely accepted only for the past 10-15 years. In this latter field of science, research based on individual functional features will come to the fore much more visibly in the future, wherein we shall chiefly investigate the processes related to the operation of ecosystems,” said Péter Török concerning the future trends in relevant research.
    The article published by MTA-DE Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Research Group can be accessed by clicking here.
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