Variation in plants and animals gives us a rich and robust assemblage of foods, medicines, industrial materials and recreation activities. But human activities are eliminating this biological diversity at an unprecedented rate.
As part of their study, Sharon Strauss, professor of evolution and ecology, and former doctoral student Richard Lankau, studied competition among genetically varied plants of one species (black mustard, Brassica nigra), and among black mustard and plants of other species.
The findings revealed how loss of one species related to another.
"This is one of the first studies to show that genetic diversity and species diversity depend on each other. Diversity within a species is necessary to maintain diversity among species, and at the same time, diversity among species is necessary to maintain diversity within a species," said Lankau.
"And if any one type is removed from the system, the cycle can break down, and the community becomes dominated by a single species," he said.
The paper, titled "Mutual feedbacks maintain both genetic and species diversity in a plant community," was published in the journals Science, Nature and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS).