Tuesday, July 31, 2012

450000 Beetle Species

450000 Beetle Species - Earth is losing species more rapidly than scientists can understand the roles these species play and how they function. With this loss comes, biologists believe, lost opportunities to understand the history of life, to better predict the future of the living world and to make beneficial discoveries in the areas of food, fiber, fuel, pharmaceuticals and bio-inspired innovation.

To characterize the lesser-known aspects of the diversity of life on Earth, the National Science Foundation (NSF) is now in the second year of its decade-long Dimensions of Biodiversity campaign.

The effort, funded by NSF’s Directorate for Biological Sciences along with its Directorate for Geosciences and Office of Polar Programs, aims to transform, by 2020, how scientists describe and understand the scope and role of life on Earth.

NSF recently awarded grants for 11 new Dimensions of Biodiversity projects that total approximately $19 million. This includes a new International Research Coordination Network, bringing the entire number of active Dimensions of Biodiversity projects to 27.

“By establishing networks of interdisciplinary, globally-engaged scientists, Dimensions of Biodiversity will have a lasting effect on biodiversity science,” says John Wingfield, NSF Assistant Director for Biological Sciences. “It has the potential to transform the way we conduct biological research in this arena.”

The Dimensions of Biodiversity campaign is important, says Wingfield, because assessing the living diversity of Earth is not as straightforward as simply listing species.

There are more than 450,000 beetle species on the planet, for example, but only 270 or so species of cat- or dog-like carnivores.

The domestic dog, on the other hand, is just one sub-species of carnivore, but includes hundreds of artificially selected breeds and varieties spanning a range of sizes, shapes and temperaments.

Species (beetles) and genetic (dog breed) variation represent just two types of biodiversity. There’s also diversity in the evolutionary history of groups of species; the ecological links among them; their functions; and the benefits they provide humans, among others.

All species rely on a vast network of mostly invisible and largely unknown life forms, such as bacteria and fungi.

As a result, most aspects of Earth’s biodiversity still remain unknown. Characterizing these dimensions of biodiversity and how they interact is increasingly important given the pace of global change.

Addressing the knowledge gaps in understanding biodiversity, scientists say, will require new thinking and a coordinated effort among several sub-disciplines of biology.

An important distinction of the Dimensions of Biodiversity initiative is the simultaneous investigation of the links and feedbacks between genetic, phylogenetic, taxonomic and functional dimensions of biodiversity, says Joann Roskoski, NSF deputy assistant director for Biological Sciences.

Roskoski says that the innovative and interdisciplinary teams of the Dimensions of Biodiversity campaign “may accomplish in 10 years what, with a piecemeal approach, would have taken 50 years–a half-century we can no longer afford to wait.”

The Dimensions of Biodiversity campaign is developing the workforce and partnerships necessary for the unique human- and cyber-infrastructure challenges of an interdisciplinary network of researchers.

Dimensions currently has partnerships with NASA and funding agencies in China and Brazil.

NASA is co-funding projects that use remote sensing technologies to expand biodiversity investigations across broad spatial scales.

International partnerships are supporting the exchange of students and scientists, joint research projects, and the digitization of biological collections.

450000 Beetle Species Rating: 4.5 Diposkan Oleh: Arm Aritn

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