TAMU-CC Biology Professor Publishes Plant Research in ‘Nature Communications’ Journal

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CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi’s Dr. Barnabas H. Daru, Assistant Professor of Biology, along with a team of research colleagues from around the world, are working to identify the cause behind the biotic homogenization of more than 200,000 plant species. Biotic homogenization, defined as the process by which two or more spatially distributed ecological communities become increasingly similar over time, and according to Daru, is causing a loss of diversity between plant species significantly affecting plant ecosystems around the world.

“This study, which is five years in the making, demonstrates the profound influence humans exert on regional biotas beyond changes in species richness,” Daru said.

The study, “Widespread homogenization of plant communities in the Anthropocene,” which focuses on the negative impacts that human migration has imposed on biodiversity in native plants and their key ecosystem functions, was accepted and published in “Nature Communications,” an open access journal that publishes high-quality research in biology, health, physics, chemistry, Earth sciences, and all related fields. To access the study, visit https://www.nature.com/ncomms/.

Through the collection and archival of more than 200,000 plant species, Daru and a team of esteemed researchers, worked to identify the defining cause of global native-biodiversity decline, nonnative species spread, and reduction in plant trait and phylogenetic differences between species shared across regions. According to the team’s research findings, the cause of extreme lack of diversity between plants in the same region is due to the naturalization of nonnative plant species to the area through human migration within the last 500 years – with Asia and North America leading the trend as major sources of non-native species.

“Plants are primary producers, at the beginning of food chains and maintaining all life by providing clean air, medicines, food, and carbon sequestration,” Daru said. “Thus, the transformation of plant communities through human impacts in the form of invasive species naturalizations and native species extinctions will have a cascading effect on all organisms high up in the food chain that depend on plants including humans.”

According to Daru, the next step for the study would be to quantify the impact of homogenization on functional trait diversity with implications for ecosystem functioning.

“This study, by its nature, is already global in scope,” Daru said. “With the massive accumulation of biodiversity data, researchers with interest in biodiversity informatics and methods and tools development are having a wonderful time analyzing these datasets and drawing out patterns in ways that have never been done before. These are exciting times.”

Co-authors include Dr. Jonathan Davies, The University of British Columbia; Dr. Charles G. Willis, University of Minnesota; Dr. Emily K. Meineke, University of California, Davis; Dr. Argo Ronk, University of Tartu; Dr. Martin Zobel, University of Tartu; Dr. Alexandre Antonelli, University of Oxford; and Dr. Charles C. Davis, Harvard University.