Project

Improved geodiversity information in assessing and conserving biodiversity (iGEOBIO)

Goal: Geodiversity describes the abiotic diversity of the earth's surface (e.g., soil, landform and bedrock types, hydrology, and elevation) and
can be used as a surrogate for biodiversity. Alternative and complementing approaches to quantify biodiversity are badly needed due to harmful effects of global change. In this project, we study if geodiversity has any influence on the temporal changes in biological
communities, whether geodiversity-biodiversity relationships are similar across different places and whether high geodiversity areas
support high biodiversity. The project has both research-focussed and practical applied benefits, emphasising the novelty and boldness
of our multidiciplinary research exercise.

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Project log

Janne Alahuhta
added a research item
1. Current global environmental change calls for comprehensive and complementing approaches for biodiversity conservation. According to recent research, consideration of the diversity of Earth's abiotic features (i.e., geodiversity) could provide new insights and applications into the investigation and management of biodiversity. However, methods to map and quantify geodiversity at local scale have not been developed although this scale is important for conservation planning. Here, we introduce a field methodology for observing plot-scale geodiversity, pilot the method in an Arctic-alpine tundra environment, provide empirical evidence on the plot-scale biodiversity-geodiversity relationship and give guidance for practitioners on the implementation of the method. 2. The field method is based on observation of geofeatures, i.e., elements of geology, geomorphology, and hydrology, from a given area surrounding a location of species observations. As a result, the method provides novel information on the variation of abiotic nature for biodiversity research and management. The method was piloted in northern Norway and Finland by observing geofeatures from 76 sites at three scales (5, 10 and 25 m radii). To explore the relationship between measures of biodiversity and geodiversity, the occurrence of vascular plant species was recorded from 2 m x 2 m plots at the same sites. 3. According to the results, vascular plant species richness was positively correlated with the richness of geofeatures (Rs = 0.18-0.59). The connection was strongest in habitats characterized by deciduous shrubs. The method has a high potential for observing geofeatures without extensive geological or geomorphological training or field survey experience and could be applied by conservation practitioners. 4. Synthesis and applications. Consideration of geodiversity in understanding, analysing and conserving biodiversity could facilitate environmental management and ensure the long-term sustainability of ecosystem functions. With the developed method, it is possible to cost-efficiently observe the elements of geodiversity that are useful in ecology and biodiversity conservation. Our approach can be adapted in different ecosystems and biodiversity investigations. The method can be adjusted depending on the abiotic conditions, expertise of the observer(s), and the equipment available.
Janne Alahuhta
added a research item
Aim: The regionalized patterns of biodiversity distributions are actively studied in terrestrial and marine ecosystems, but much less is known on the geographical patterns of ecoregions founded on freshwater taxa. Here, we studied, for the first time, how well existing freshwater ecoregions describe the geographical distribution of inland water plants. Location: Greenland, continental Canada and USA Taxon: Freshwater vascular plants of all taxa and multiple functional groups (i.e., growth forms). Methods: Using newly available fine–grained data on freshwater plant distributions, we studied how ecoregions founded on fish are suitable for freshwater plant regionalization across North America. Specifically, we calculated internal homogeneity and distinctness among neighboring ecoregions in relation to species replacements and richness differences. We also explored how a complex suite of ecogeographical characteristics affect ecoregion delineation of freshwater plants using spatially explicit regression routines. Results: We found a clear geographical patterning of ecoregion robustness for North American freshwater plants, with communities being more internally homogeneous and more similar to one another in Polar and Subtropical inland waters. The degree of internal homogeneity and ecoregion distinctness were almost equally driven by species replacements and richness differences. Considering different life forms, ecoregion delineation performed best for emergent and floating–leaved plants. Finally, within–ecoregion homogeneity and distinctness were best explained by annual mean temperature and terrain ruggedness, respectively, with mean water alkalinity, ecoregion area and late Quaternary glacial legacies having supplementary effects. Main conclusions: Our findings suggest that selection through climate filtering (e.g., mean annual temperature) is likely the main mechanistic driver of freshwater plant ecoregions. Geographical regionalizations founded on a particular organismal group may not be directly applicable for all taxa but can be a good basis for further adjustments. Our study is a promising starting point for further investigations of geographical delineations for freshwater taxa other than fish.
Janne Alahuhta
added 2 research items
Aim: Geodiversity underpins biodiversity, but the contribution of specific geofeatures or landforms has rarely been explored. In this study, we use multiple vascular plant species diversity measures on alpha, beta and gamma levels to explore the linkage between biodiversity and co-located landforms (e.g. gullies, dunes and lake shores). We hypothesize that biodiversity will be positively related to geodiversity, which is founded on distinct landforms. Additionally, we propose that different landforms will sustain different amounts of biodiversity and that high alpha and gamma diversity values are related to landform-driven moisture availability whereas high beta diversity relates especially to landform-specific microtopographic variation. Location: Rokua UNESCO Global Geopark area, Finland. Taxon: Vascular plants. Methods: We compare vascular plant species richness measures, Shannon's and Simpson's diversity indices, rarity-weighted richness and local contribution to beta diversity at altogether three levels of biodiversity (alpha, beta and gamma) for different landforms. Landform information is compiled from aerial photos, spatial data layers and targeted field surveys. We compare results to control habitat (i.e. sites without any distinct landforms) within the study area. Results: Vascular plant diversity was higher on landforms than in control habitat. There was also notable variation between species diversity of different landforms. Moisture-rich gullies and river shores were especially diverse at all three levels, whereas aapa mires hosted most unique species composition (highest beta diversity). Beta diversity patterns were rather comparable with alpha and gamma diversity patterns, which contradict our hypothesis. Main conclusions: This study quantitatively established a strong connection between terrestrial plant communities and multiple landforms. Our results highlighted the landform-controlled variation in soil moisture, microclimate and microtopography in enhancing plant species diversity. Based on the results, we promote the inclusion of landform-based geodiversity information in conservation management and in further biogeographical studies.
Aim: Conserving freshwater biodiversity in a rapidly changing world requires updated planning schemes and research efforts. Geodiversity – the diversity of Earth surface forms, materials and processes – and biodiversity are interlinked at a fundamental level. This relationship is being considered in a growing number of studies, yet research from freshwater environments is scarce. We used geodiversity (rock-type, soil-type and geomorphological richness), local and climatic variables to explore whether geodiversity can be used as a surrogate for aquatic plant species richness in lakes and rivers. Location: Finland Taxon: Aquatic plants Methods: We compared geodiversity variables (measured within 1-km2 gridcells) to well-studied local (e.g., area, alkalinity) and climate (e.g., growing degree-days) variables, and examined the patterns between habitat types (lakes and rivers) and among all taxa and major functional groups (helophytes and hydrophytes). We modeled lake (n=145) and river (n=146) plant species richness with generalized linear models, and further partitioned variation to measure the independent and shared contributions of the geodiversity, climate and local environmental variable groups. As a complementary analysis, and to identify single important variables explaining variation in aquatic plant species richness, we utilized boosted regression trees. Results: We found a positive relationship between aquatic plant species richness and catchment geodiversity variation with recurring patterns across two different freshwater habitat types and two aquatic plant functional groups. Higher variation in geodiversity (measured at landscape scale) supported higher freshwater biodiversity (measured at the local scale) of lakes and rivers. Main conclusions: Geodiversity can be a useful addition to biodiversity modeling, and it should be considered in conservation schemes and monitoring efforts, further supporting the principle of conserving nature’s stage. Yet, differences between habitats and functional groups suggest that more habitat-specific approaches and multiple biodiversity measures should be considered. Our study is an important signpost guiding further studies on the biodiversity-geodiversity relationship in freshwater ecosystems.
Franziska Schrodt
added 2 research items
Alexander von Humboldt was arguably the most influential scientist of his day. Although his fame has since lessened relative to some of his contemporaries, we argue that his influence remains strong—mainly because his approach to science inspired others and was instrumental in furthering other scientific disciplines (such as evolution, through Darwin, and conservation science, through Muir)—and that he changed the way that large areas of science are done and communicated. Indeed, he has been called the father of a range of fields, including environmental science, earth system science, plant geography, ecology and conservation. His approach was characterized by making connections between non‐living and living nature (including humans), based on interdisciplinary thinking and informed by large amounts of data from systematic, accurate measurements in a geographical framework. Although his approach largely lacked an evolutionary perspective, he was fundamental to creating the circumstances for Darwin and Wallace to advance evolutionary science. He devoted considerable effort illustrating, communicating and popularizing science, centred on the excitement of pure science. In biogeography, his influence remains strong, including in relating climate to species distributions (e.g. biomes and latitudinal and elevational gradients) and in the use of remote sensing and species distribution modelling in macroecology. However, some key aspects of his approach have faded, particularly as science fragmented into specific disciplines and became more reductionist. We argue that asking questions in a more Humboldtian way is important for addressing current global challenges. This is well‐exemplified by researching links between geodiversity and biodiversity. Progress on this can be made by (a) systematic data collection to improve our knowledge of biodiversity and geodiversity around the world; (b) improving our understanding of the linkages between biodiversity and geodiversity; and (c) developing our understanding of the interactions of geological, biological, ecological, environmental and evolutionary processes in biogeography.
Rapid environmental change is driving the need for complex and comprehensive scientific information that supports policies aimed at managing natural resources through international treaties, platforms, and networks. Although the current essential variables frameworks account for the biosphere, atmosphere, and some aspects of the hydrosphere, they largely overlook geodiversity—the variety of abiotic features and processes of the land surface and subsurface. Analogous to biodiversity, geodiversity is important for the maintenance of ecosystem functioning and services, and areas high in geodiversity have been shown to support high biodiversity. We advocate a holistic approach that recognizes and tracks the integrity of the abiotic and biotic components of geosystems and ecosystems as the most effective means to address global environmental challenges.
Janne Alahuhta
added a project goal
Geodiversity describes the abiotic diversity of the earth's surface (e.g., soil, landform and bedrock types, hydrology, and elevation) and
can be used as a surrogate for biodiversity. Alternative and complementing approaches to quantify biodiversity are badly needed due to harmful effects of global change. In this project, we study if geodiversity has any influence on the temporal changes in biological
communities, whether geodiversity-biodiversity relationships are similar across different places and whether high geodiversity areas
support high biodiversity. The project has both research-focussed and practical applied benefits, emphasising the novelty and boldness
of our multidiciplinary research exercise.