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Biology professor contributes to international research

International leaders in biodiversity research have called upon a University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire biology professor to co-author a research paper titled "Global effects of land use on local terrestrial biodiversity" recently published in Nature, the top-ranked multidisciplinary science journal worldwide.

Dr. Evan Weiher contributed a significantly large portion of functional trait information on plant species to help build a global data set for biodiversity research. He and his UW-Eau Claire students have measured hundreds of species of plants over his nearly 20-year career. The data were used to measure how local terrestrial biodiversity responds to human pressures.

"Functional traits affect biodiversity, and biodiversity influences ecosystem functioning," Weiher said. "Traits are the currency that tell you if a species is going to be successful. Human stresses tend to select for smaller species, and these are less effective in the ecosystem. This study looks at what happens to biodiversity when we dominate the landscape." 

The report states that "human-caused changes have already reduced average local species richness by 13.6 percent and total abundance by 10.7 percent during the past few centuries." The researchers also state, however, that there is room to make changes and reverse the effects.

Being selected to co-author this paper with leading scientists in the field was exciting, Weiher said. 

"Only one person from North America is on the study, and that person is from UW-Eau Claire," he said. "It shows that we are doing things here that are being recognized internationally." 

For more information about the biodiversity study, contact Dr. Evan Weiher at weiher@uwec.edu or 715-836-2543.