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article imageCosta Rican forests have greater bird diversity than farms

By Tim Sandle     Sep 13, 2014 in Environment
Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley have shown that Costa Rican forests support more phylogenetically diverse bird populations than do farms in the country.
Although the results are probably not that unsurprising, and it should be noted that the researchers found some farms to have a greater diversity of birds than others, the results nevertheless suggest that the diversification of agricultural land should be encouraged. The results indicate that agriculture diminishes phylogenetic diversity. However, the patterns also show that farms with mixed agriculture support far greater diversity than those with intensive monocultures.
The results were assessed on the basis of genetic differences and relatedness. This falls under the umbrella of "phylogenetics". This is the study of evolutionary relationships among groups of organisms (such as different species and populations). These relationships are discovered through genetic molecular sequencing tests. In recent years, phylogenetic analyses have become essential to research on the so-called "tree of life". Prior to such technology, assessing the biodiversity of a given environment was traditionally accomplished by counting the number of species present.
On this basis, the researchers found that birds living in the rainforests of Costa Rica represent around 4.1 billion years of evolutionary history, while those that occupy nearby farmland can represent as little as 3.3 billion years. The inference is that undisturbed forests were clearly “the best way to preserve evolutionary history.
The new study has been published in the journal Science. The study is headed "Loss of avian phylogenetic diversity in neotropical agricultural systems".
More about Birds, Diversity, Farms, Forests, Costa rica
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