BEIJING, Nov. 7 (Xinhuanet) — More heat-trapping carbon dioxide could remain in the atmosphere as plant species go extinct and natural habitats have less overall greenery, a new study suggests.
Detailed in the Nov. 5 online issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study summarized the results of 44 experiments worldwide that simulated plant species extinction in ecosystems. The results revealed ecosystems with fewer plant species produced up to 50 percent less plant biomass than those with more natural levels of plant diversity.
Scientists discovered that other plants do no proliferate and fill in the gaps.
“Our analyzes provide the most comprehensive evidence yet that natural habitats with a greater variety of plant species are more productive,” said study co-author Michel Loreau of McGill University in Montreal. “This occurs partly because diverse communities are more likely to contain highly productive species. But even more important, our analyzes show that diverse communities are more productive because plants are ‘complementary’ in how they use biological resources. In other words, different plant species play unique roles in the environment.”
Some species act as the major producers of the ecosystem, the researchers say, but others play supporting roles that are necessary to the productivity of the plant community as a whole.
Loss of plant species also can have an impact outside an ecosystem, as photosynthesis is a key method for removing extra carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. If plant productivity decreases, that also means that less oxygen, food, fiber and biofuels will be naturally produced, the authors say.