Diversity loss with persistent human disturbance increases vulnerability to ecosystem collapse - Andrew MacDougall

June 29, 2017

Grass onfire

Nature is an amazingly complex system, its baroque network of interactions working in surprisingly novel ways. Perhaps not surprisingly, human tampering has often served to unintentionally undermine this intimately connected natural machinery. In the article “Diversity loss with persistent human disturbance increases vulnerability to ecosystem collapse”, BiRN member and University of Guelph faculty Andrew MacDougall examines the impacts of fire suppression on the resilience of grassland ecosystems. MacDougall and colleagues argue that in Western North America, humans’ historical suppression of fire in grasslands has altered this delicate balance between biotic and abiotic conditions leaving behind a diminished grassland biodiversity with increased vulnerability to invasive species.

MacDougall et al.’s research on fire cycles and how they promote diverse grassland ecosystems make the Western grasslands an example of biodiversity at work. Meanwhile, resilience comes into play with how these ecosystems combat negative things like increased susceptibility to invasive species through the natural phenomena of fire cycles. In the end, MacDougall et al.’s article highlights the need to allow nature to perform its natural function free of human interference, and in stressing the need to preserve natural biodiversity resilience his article relates closely to the work of our overall network.

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