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‘Homogenization’ threatens ecosystems at larger geographic scales


Diversity plays a key role in maintaining the stability of plant and animal life in an area. But it’s difficult to scale up smaller experiments to understand how changes will impact larger ecosystems.

A new study of North American birds from Washington University in St. Louis finds that the regional stability of ecosystems over time depends on both the total number of species present in a locality and on the variation in species identities among localities.

The results have implications for maintaining a diverse portfolio of local species in the face of major environmental threats — like climate change, biological invasions, intensifying land use and other human and natural disturbances. “Homogenization” may threaten ecosystems at larger geographic scales, the research suggests. The study is published March 4 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. MORE

Header image: The Kirtland’s warbler nests almost exclusively in jack pine forests found in Michigan. The beloved songbird was poised on the brink of extinction but now is thriving once again. Biologists in Arts & Sciences published a new study of North American birds that considers the role of diversity in maintaining healthy ecosystems. Credit: Shutterstock.

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