Our impact on nature is not what we thought

We humans don't like the unknown. Our brain takes time to get used to changes and new things.. Therefore, in the face of these situations, we remain alert. Fashions and routines, on the contrary, let that organ that hides in our heads rest, putting it on autopilot. This globalized trend towards homogenization It doesn't even make us wonder why, suddenly, all the capitals are a copy of each other. Nowadays, no matter which country you travel to, you can have a coffee at Starbucks, go shopping at Zara and continue watching the Netflix series in your hotel room. Luckily for us, The homogenization of cities does not endanger the survival of our own species.

But Mother Nature does not like this human drift to replicate everything so well. For its part, it prefers diverse ecosystems, since They guarantee the balance and proper functioning of these. Thanks to this heterogeneity, Communities are able to better withstand changes and prevent some species from proliferating over others. A balance, unfortunately, very easy to fragment. The insertion of a non-native species or the change in the climatic conditions of the area can be factors that alter this order in a short time.

Therefore, in recent years, Scientists have believed that the flora and fauna of the various ecosystems were tending to become increasingly homogeneous. And this predisposition to biodiversity loss would be mainly due to human activities. But a study published this week in the journal Science Advances shows that the inclination may not be as pronounced as believed.

When we think about the loss of biodiversity, it is easy to fall into the idea that, as a consequence, ecosystems tend to be increasingly similar to each other. An example can be found in tomatoes: It is estimated that there are 10,000 varieties of this fruit. However, you probably don't know more than 10 types. And it's not that the rest no longer exist (although that is the case for some), but it is more likely that, if you find a field of tomatoes, it will be one of these ten varieties.

As with the tomato, this crisis in biodiversity, together with the great extinction that we are experiencing, has led experts to consider whether the communities of living beings on the planet were naturally tending towards homogenization.

For this reason, researchers from the German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU), analyzed 527 data sets collected over 500 years of ecosystems, such as grasslands, shrubs and coral reefs. The analysis is the first of its kind to provide a comprehensive assessment of how changes in local and regional biodiversity combine across landscapes over centuries.

To his surprise, what they observed was not what they expected.

The data revealed that there was no trend over the years for the decrease in species diversity in a field. When they studied the territory on large scales, they could see a slight homogeneous trend due to the increase in highly widespread species. Nevertheless, in studying small-scale communities of species,This trend was balanced by the increase in life in its various forms..

But releasing these data without a context would be like denying that the Sun will rise tomorrow. That it has not been observed that communities of living beings tend towards homogenization It does not mean that human actions are not having consequences on nature..

The researchers also studied the factor that describes the average number of species that inhabit an area. While spaces that tend toward homogenization have a lower average number of species, heterogeneous spaces show a greater tendency..

Unfortunately, the balance that exists is fragile. And human actions are the main cause of fracturing this natural order.. The construction of roads, the felling of trees or desertification have enormous consequences on biodiversity. Without forgetting the introduction, natural or artificial, of non-native species, which proliferate in new places without control and displace other living beings until they disappear.

In conclusion, studies like these help us better understand the framework in which we operate. Although the demonstration that we are not tending towards global homogenization is, in principle, good news, we must not lose sight of the other reality. Many species are currently in danger of extinction and this type of research can provide a new approach to the preservation of these threatened beings..


  • We have already seen on other occasions how the loss of variability can have catastrophic consequences for crops. The appearance of a disease or pest that only attacks one species can leave a completely barren terrain in its wake. While the variability serves both to maintain life in spaces and to hinder the proliferation of these pests.