According to a new analysis of plants in grassland ecosystems around the world, it turns out that most of those plant species are important.
Brian Wilsey, associate professor, and Stanley Harpole, assistant professor, both in Iowa State University’s Department of Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology, are authors of a study on plant diversity published in today’s issue of the journal Nature. The study’s lead author, Forest Isbell, is a former graduate student of Wilsey who now works at McGill University, Canada.
Their findings show that most species promoted ecosystem functioning in at least some years, sites and environmental conditions. In all, 84 percent of the grassland species are important to the ecosystem at some point.
Prior to this multi-year, multi-context research, Wilsey said that the argument for diversity was more difficult.
"In any single context, only about 27 percent of plant species were seen as important," he said.
Since previous research had shown that such a small number of plant species were important to ecosystem processes, there was less reason to be concerned if grasslands lost different species and diversity lessened, according to Wilsey.
Now, the value of diversity is very apparent.