How to Tell If Your Bird Is Grassland in Europe
The grasslands of Europe have long been thought to be the most biodiverse regions on the planet.
But a new study has shown that grasslands in Europe are more likely to be dominated by trees than grasslands elsewhere.
“A lot of the biodiversity that we see in Europe has been in the past,” says Sarah Leboutin, a biologist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison who led the study.
“That means we don’t see the same species diversity that we’d see in Australia or Australia, or New Zealand, or elsewhere.
So we’re really starting to understand the potential for biodiversity to change.”
The study is published online in the journal PLOS ONE.
Lebouton and her colleagues took soil samples from 4,000 sites in the European grassland and the forests of North America and found that trees are the dominant species.
The species richness in Europe was greater than that in the Americas and the Australian and New Zealand grasslands, the researchers found.
The researchers also analyzed vegetation in the samples, which were all more than 50 years old.
“We found that the species richness was greater in the forests, but also in the grasslands and in the lakes,” Lebourin says.
In some places, species richness also increased in the forest compared to the grassland, where species richness decreased.
In other places, it was the opposite.
These findings show that grassland biodiversity can change dramatically over time, Leboulin says, adding that they are important for the understanding of grassland ecology and the evolution of biodiversity.
Although this study is not the first to document changes in grassland species richness, it is the first that examines changes over time in the entire region, she says.
“I think this is a really important contribution to understanding grassland ecosystems,” LeBouton says.
“I think there’s a lot of interesting questions about how grassland landscapes change over time.”
The study also found that changes in species richness were most pronounced in grasslands near the equator, where trees are common.
Scientists are not sure why this pattern occurs.
“There are probably a number of reasons,” Lebowoutin says of the finding.
Some scientists think the species-richness pattern may be linked to climate change, as temperature changes the vegetation cover.
Another possibility is that changes over the years in grass land could have altered the composition of soil and water that made it more conducive to photosynthesis.
But scientists are not completely convinced that changes to the landscape are responsible for changes in biodiversity, because there is no consensus about why species richness is different in different ecosystems.
A similar study in the United States found that in areas where grassland is rare, species diversity decreased, but in areas of grasses where there are more trees, there was a greater change in species diversity.
“So there are a lot more questions to be answered,” Leleboutas says.