Introduced Species Dilute the Effects of Evolution on Diversity

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Researchers from the University of Göttingen's German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), and the Pacific Islands Climate Adaptation Science Center explore biodiversity in young and old forests across the Hawaiian islands.

Read the original article published by PHYS.ORG.

Oceanic islands like Hawai'i were formed by undersea volcanoes and may differ in age by several millions of years. These islands provide valuable data to scientists who study long-term impacts of geology and evolution on biodiveristy within these ecosystems. This type of research on the forces that shape biodiversity provides input into the protection of rare species and unique ecosystems. Currently, an international research team led by the University of Göttingen, German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), together with the Pacific Islands Climate Adaptation Science Center's University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, used data from more than 500 forest plots across the Hawaiian archipelago to explore how historical and recent ecological processes influence regional biodiversity. The researchers compared data from older islands, like 5-million-year-old Kaua'i, to data collected from younger islands such as Hawai'i, which is about 500,000 years old. Their analysis showed that older islands had a greater number of rare species and native species than islands that formed more recently. Importantly, evidence also suggested that introduction of non-native species to the ecosystem slows this apparent increase in biodiversity that occurs as the islands age. Read their recently published article in PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).

This work was funded in part by the PI CASC. Learn more about this project here.

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An aerial image of a forested island encompassed by a thin white beach next to a deep blue ocean.

The island of Kaua'i (public domain).