When ecologists play "Jenga" ...

Scientists: Environmental research must become more dynamic

Mountain rainforest in Panama © Dr. med. James Dalling / University of Göttingen
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Global change and the biodiversity crisis confront environmental research with unimaginable problems. Can science even meet these challenges? "Yes, " say scientists from Giessen, Utrecht, Colorado and Texas in the latest issue of the science journal Science.

As an example, these scientists present future-oriented research strategies for one of the most popular concepts of ecology: linking communities to food webs. Just as the stability of the wood pile in the Jenga game does not depend on the characteristics of individual pieces, but on structure and gameplay, according to the scientists, the role and survivability of species in ecosystems is not determined by fixed properties but by a dynamic network of relationships other organisms.

According to the researchers, "dynamization" is the magic formula for adapting environmental research to the challenges of a changing world. From this, completely new approaches and priorities for our understanding of nature and for sustainable management can be derived.

The bad news, however, is that, for example, when planning protected areas, it will not be enough to continue to focus on static key species of seemingly outstanding importance. The good news, however, is that dynamic networks of relationships between organisms are much more resilient to environmental changes than expected. Now it is necessary to create the scientific basis for a "more elastic" management of ecological networks.

(University of Giessen, 05.07.2005 - NPO) advertisement