How is it possible that so many different tree species live side-by-side in forests? An intriguing question for scientists for decades, researchers have now discovered a way to mathematically describe the social network that creates and maintains biodiversity in forests. The research, led by researchers from Utrecht University and the University of Kansas, has been published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. In our age of global biodiversity loss, the findings can benefit nature conservation and restoration efforts.
This breakthrough enables the researchers to calculate whether soil microbes are strong enough to create and maintain biodiversity. “We found a way to characterize the interactions of any tree-microbe network, whether it consists of 2 or 2000 species, by a single number. This tells us whether soil microbes enable these tree species to live together or not,” explains Dr Maarten Eppinga, an Assistant Professor at Utrecht University and lead author of the research.