Research press release


Nature Communications

Ecology: Great Britain's ecosystems are losing vital species



今回、Tom Oliverたちは、英国における過去40年間の鳥類、哺乳類、無脊椎動物と植物(合計4,400種以上)の生息数のトレンドを解析し、生態系においてどの生物種がどの機能を果たすのかを同定した。その結果、重要な機能(花粉媒介、害虫の防除など)を果たすことのできる生物種群の規模が著しく縮小しており、その一方で、炭素隔離に関連する機能を果たす生物種群(例えば、維管束植物)と分解に関連する機能を果たす生物種群の生息数が安定化してきたことが判明した。


Great Britain's ecosystems have become less resilient to the effects of environmental change over the past 40 years, finds a study in Nature Communications. This suggests that these ecosystems could be in danger of losing key functions that can only be performed by certain groups of species.

Different species within an ecosystem may play vital roles in ensuring that specific key functions are performed - for example, insects pollinating flowers or earthworms decomposing organic matter. Several species may overlap in their ability to provide these different functions, thereby providing some degree of insurance, or redundancy, in the ecosystem, should one of the other species be lost.

Tom Oliver and colleagues analyse trends in the abundance of more than 4,400 species of birds, mammals, invertebrates and plants in Great Britain over the past 40 years, and identify which ecosystem functions are being performed by each species. They find that there have been significant declines in the groups of species able to perform key functions such as pollination and pest control, whereas the groups that perform tasks related to carbon sequestration (such as vascular plants) and decomposition have been more stable over time.

By separating out which species within these groups were already present in Great Britain before 1970 from those that have arrived since then, the authors discover that the new arrivals have mostly been composed of species fulfilling functions such as carbon sequestration and decomposition, allowing these roles to remain stable over time. In contrast, fewer pollinator and pest control species have arrived into Great Britain during this time interval, suggesting that species vital to agriculture and food production may be less resilient to environmental change, and are being eroded rapidly.

doi: 10.1038/ncomms10122

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