An ecosystem that is rich in biodiversity is stronger and more resilient to diseases, a recent series of studies has shown. A post-doctoral researcher at the University of South Florida led the study which examined the dilution effect, or the range of diversity an ecosystem has compared to how resistant these ecosystems are to diseases and parasites.
The study found that ecological zones with increased diversity of plant and animal species were more likely to resist infections and diseases than zones with less diversity. Plants in diverse ecological communities were less likely to get sick; if they did, the disease was less severe. Evidence of the dilution effect has been seen in laboratory experiments, but scientists are now moving to the field in order to study the dilution effect in the wild.
The study brings up valuable information about the resilience of plants and animals in the wild as well as steps that scientists and conservationists can take in order to preserve ecosystems worldwide. This study helps researchers understand the spread of plant illnesses and can help pinpoint areas in which disease is more or less likely to spread. This information could someday be used to create (or manipulate) ecological zones to create stronger plants and animals.
There needs to be continued field research to continue study on the dilution effect and the ways in which it occurs in nature among different plant and animal species around the world. However, preliminary evidence presents a strong case for continuing research in this area both in the laboratory and in the field.
Farmers and scientists alike are using technology to help with the tracking of plant diseases. Using tools like crowdsourced mapping, scientists can gather data collected by members of the public regarding plant and animal species seen in a certain location. Scientists can then begin to understand the diversity of these areas and what potential diseases could affect the plants and animals living there. Crowdsourced mapping involves members of the public in collecting data, freeing up valuable time and money for scientists to analyze the information they have. Crowdsourced mapping is used on a variety of issues including homelessness, urban development, animal conservation, and more.
Civitello, David J., et al. “Biodiversity inhibits parasites: Broad evidence for the dilution effect.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112.28 (2015): 8667-8671. Retrieved from: http://www.pnas.org/content/112/28/8667.abstract