Understanding Biodiversity
Understanding Biodiversity

Understanding Biodiversity

Biology is the study of life, and what could be more important than that? When scientists study the variety of that life – called biodiversity – they can use tools from ecology, evolution, conservation, genetics, and even the management of our natural resources. They find and describe new species, explore uncharted ecosystems, study how and why species change, investigate patterns in where and when species live, and study processes that make it possible for an ecosystem to survive or thrive. This section of Frontiers for Young Minds will include articles that describe, explore, and explain biological diversity on Earth – past, present, and future. From paleontology to botany to zoology (all animals big and small, from elephants to microbes), articles will address how living things adapt, change, and use or influence each other. Understanding Biodiversity wants to provide an opportunity for the next generation to understand the processes that have helped create this biological diversity, so that they are prepared to protect and sustain a biodiverse planet into the future.

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Core Concept

How Do Plants Deal with Dry Days?

Plants regularly face dry conditions. Not having enough water poses a serious threat to a plant’s ability to grow and develop or even just survive! If plants die we will not have enough food to eat! How do plants manage to survive during water shortages? They must somehow be able to sense, respond and adapt to changes is water availability. They do this through a range of adaptations that allow for a plant to combat water shortages. A plant’s morphological armour is mainly focused on decreasing water loss and increasing water storage. Their physiological and biochemical responses however are very complex. These can include changes regulating their actual growth and the ability to protect themselves against toxic compounds accumulating during dry periods. Inevitably all of their responses are directly controlled by the plant’s genes. If we can unravel the genetic code involved in protecting plants against drought we might in the future make genetically modified crops that can withstand global warming and climate changes.

Authors

Christell van der Vyver / Shaun Peters
Reviewed by Hana
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New Discovery

Invasion of the Chinese Pond Mussels—What Makes These Harmless-Looking Animals So Dangerous?

Imagine what you would do if someone transferred you far away from your home to a completely unknown and unfamiliar place? Guess you would do your best to stay alive. In the same way any living being, such as an animal or a plant, would react. And so far this has happened to many of them because people transported them, knowingly or unknowingly. Some of those living beings started to like their new home so much that they spread all around and while doing so, they endangered “native” inhabitants. Because of that, they are considered dangerous and are scientifically called “invasive species.” One of them is the Chinese pond mussel. Scientists still don't understand what makes this seemingly harmless animal turn into a dangerous villain? So, we created a scientific experiment to find out!

Authors

Ivana Babić / Sandra Hudina / Ana Bielen
Reviewed by Tess
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New Discovery

What Thrives Inside; The World Within the Gut

We all have bacteria in our guts, and so do birds. These bacteria are good for us in many ways, and help to digest food. We often see similar groups of bacteria in the guts of related animals. But it’s not clear why this is. It could be because of the food each animal is eating, or how similar the animals are. It could even be a result of how closely together they live. We performed an experiment to try to work out which one was the cause but the results were not as simple as we hoped. Here, we explain the steps we took to try to answer this question.

Authors

David W. Waite / Siân I. Morgan-Waite / Michael W. Taylor
Reviewed by Brian
Reviewed by Elsa
Reviewed by Yoonsa
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New Discovery

“Where Did My Friends Go?”: How Corn’s Microbe Partners Have Changed Over Time

Many of the foods we eat today look very different than they did in the past. Corn, or maize, didn’t exist ten thousand years ago: it descended from a weedy grass with tiny hard-shelled seeds that we wouldn’t recognize as corn kernels. That wild ancestor of corn, teosinte, grew in mixtures of many other plants instead of in cornfields like today. Big changes between teosinte and corn that we can see aboveground lead us to think that there have been changes belowground, too. Plants form partnerships with bacteria and fungi to get nutrients that they need to grow. Scientists are finding that microbes near the roots of teosinte are different than microbes that live around corn roots. Understanding how corn’s microbe partners have changed can help us make corn varieties that are better for the environment.

Authors

Jennifer E. Schmidt / Amélie C. M. Gaudin
Reviewed by Wish Bilingual School
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Core Concept

Don’t Judge a Plant by Its Flowers

You may have noticed the diversity of plants in your own backyard or neighborhood and you may even have heard of the concept of evolution. But have you ever wondered what forces have contributed to creating the biodiversity of plants with different shapes and colors all over the world? Or how scientists hope to understand and explain how this biodiversity came to be over millions of years? Using a mysterious case of look-alike flowers living on opposite sides of an ocean, we will discuss the way researchers piece together evolutionary histories by using plant DNA and the knowledge of what plants look like today. Let’s build a scientific time machine and solve the mystery!

Authors

Riva Anne Bruenn / Valerie Lavenburg / Shayla Salzman
Reviewed by Krishna
Reviewed by Darius
Reviewed by Wyatt
Reviewed by Schuyler
Reviewed by Sybille
Reviewed by Paceyn
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