May 17, 2017 11:39 AM EDT
Yale University researchers say that maintaining a diverse collection of species safeguards weaker species. Also, it protects the genetic diversity of the larger community.
In the case of fungal populations, biodiversity begets biodiversity. According to Yale News, understanding this phenomenon will help in protecting some of the world's most threatened ecosystems. Well, for that matter, coral reefs probably top the list.
To better illustrate, putting a pair of gladiators in a pit often ends in the same result. If the battle occurs between one strong and one weak gladiator, the stronger competitor will defeat the weak whether they face each other once or a total of 10 times. However, if additional gladiators with varying strengths join the game, even the weakest of them all might survive.
The researchers at Yale University, therefore, claim that the same situation is happening in the natural world. The only difference is that ecosystems present the battle for survival and reproduction. It appears that the more "players" there are in a competition, the more chances of draws and deadlocks are there too.
In the study, per Environmental News Network, the Yale University experts observed interactions between 37 distinct types of wood-decay fungi. They put two fungal species on opposite sides of a 10-centimeter Petri dish and then watched the opposing species grew toward the empty space in the middle. The scientists had over 600 separate combinations.
For the record, the fungi would typically meet near the center after around 20 days. After that, they would take part in an "interference competition" wherein each species tries to overtake the other and claim the space. Yale experts then ranked the fungi based on the speed of growth, the density of biomass, and the types of enzymes they produced.
The experts learned that the species that grew faster also developed greater density. Once the ranking was finished, the researchers modeled how the fungi would compete in a larger community. They simulated landscapes with three, five, and more than 10 additional species.
Obviously, the results showed that common traits emerged among species that were able to dominate single competitors. However, when additional species were added to the community, the competitive advantages meant less. Thus, even the weakest species were able to maintain a strong foothold.
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