A new study co-authored by Environmental Resilience Institute Fellows Tara Smiley and Pascal Title highlights some of the regional climactic and land use challenges facing animals and ecosystems in North America.
To better understand how species interact within an ecosystem, Smiley, Title, and their colleagues analyzed multiple aspects of biodiversity, using North American rodents as a case study, to determine what roles species play and what would be the impact if they were lost. The team compared geographic range and 11 measures of biodiversity, such as body size, diet, and habitat, to get a more complete picture of how species interact with the ecosystem.
“Understanding multiple measures of biodiversity helps us understand the critical role a species plays,” said Tara Smiley, ERI’s Stable Isotope Ecology Fellow and lead author of the study. “One measure doesn’t act as a tell all. Without additional knowledge, we might not know how the species contributes to an ecosystem until it is too late.”
After mapping large amounts of biodiversity data, the researchers identified “biodiversity hotspots”—areas with high amounts of biodiversity—where conservation efforts could have the greatest impact. Most of these locations are found in western North America.