Greater diversity of land uses increases species

A study led by a scientific team from the Doñana Biological Station (CSIC) has revealed that the wealth of land uses constitutes a “determining factor” of the taxonomic and functional richness of birds in a certain region and said relationship is independent of the net primary productivity that each area presents. This finding has been published in the journal Nature Communications (1).

all species in the world

As indicated by the CSIC in a press release, to reach this conclusion, data on the distribution of all the species in the world were obtained and the morphological and ecological traits of each species were taken into account, which define their function within the ecosystem ( For example, pollinating, insectivorous or burrowing species).

From this information, an estimate of the diversity of bird species and their differences in terms of features for each of the grids, of approximately one hundred kilometers, into which the terrestrial globe was divided.

Both variables were related to the diversity of land uses obtained from satellite images and other environmental variables such as primary productivity, precipitation and average temperature, calculated for each grid.

“Theory predicts that species diversity increases as landscape diversity increases and, therefore, the diversity of niches for species. However, this relationship is not mediated by habitat quality. Our study shows that the existence of a greater diversity of land uses promotes a greater richness of species and that these fulfill different functions within the ecosystem,” said Carlos Martínez-Núñez, a researcher at the Doñana Biological Station and lead author of the study.

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In this sense, the researcher added that this aspect is “extremely important” in terms of conservation, since “biodiversity management does not simply consist of preserving large areas of a given environment.”

This pattern is repeated in different geographical areas

“The diversity of land uses on a regional scale determines the number and identity of species that can be found in a certain place and this pattern is repeated in different geographical areas, it is not specific to a certain continent”, the scientist underlined.

The homogenization of the landscape constitutes a threat to regional biodiversity

In this way, Martínez-Núñez has detailed that the study shows that “the homogenization of the landscape constitutes a threat to regional biodiversity” and that the association between diversity of land uses and species richness found in this study indicates that, at the local level, “the number of species that a certain environment can harbor is limited and a saturation effect occurs quickly“.

Diversification of environments and land uses

“The diversification of environments and land uses promotes the arrival and establishment of other types of species with unique features, thus increasing the diversity of species on a regional scale. This explains why functional richness (that is, the diversity of traits) increases more rapidly than taxonomic diversity”, explained Vicente García-Navas, Ramón y Cajal researcher at the Doñana Biological Station.

However, he added that future studies should determine “whether the association found in this work can be extrapolated to other faunal groups, as well as the concordance between the areas with the greatest soil diversity and those classified as protected areas.”

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  • (1) Land use diversity predicts the taxonomic and functional richness of regional birds worldwide. Nature Communications.

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