How do rising temperatures, pollution and other environmental changes affect biodiversity? To find out, scientists developed a “time machine.” Not flying into the future, but taking a look at the past. What they saw was not reassuring.
German and British scientists used sediment from the bottom of a lake in Denmark to create a so-called time machine. This led to the creation of a hundred-year-old library containing all the information about biodiversity, chemical pollution and climate change.
Changes in water quality in this lake have been well recorded for a long time, making it an ideal natural experiment to test the biodiversity time machine. The sediments clearly showed what had changed in the lake over time from the clean, pristine environment at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution to the present.
Researchers Genetic material used Left behind in sediments by animals, plants and bacteria to map the entire freshwater community. With the help of artificial intelligence, they analyzed the information along with climate and pollution figures to figure out how to explain the massive loss of species in the lake.
Go back in time
“We took sediment from the bottom of the lake and used the biological data in the sediment as a time machine, allowing us to go back in time to paint a detailed picture of biodiversity over the past century at one-year resolution.” By combining biological data, pollution levels and climate change data, we were able From identifying the factors that had the greatest impact on biodiversity,” explains lead researcher Luisa Orsini from the University of California. University of Birmingham.
The research aims to protect biodiversity. “However, it is not realistic to protect every species without affecting people’s lives, but with the help of artificial intelligence we can prioritize the conservation of species that are particularly beneficial to the ecosystem. At the same time, we can identify the biggest polluters and strengthen regulation to combat emissions of chemicals that have the greatest impacts.” “Biodiversity supports many ecosystems, from which we all benefit,” the researcher said. “This could not only help us preserve the biodiversity that still exists, but may also promote its recovery.”
Pesticides, such as insecticides and fungicides, combined with a temperature rise of 1.2 to 1.5 degrees Celsius, have caused the greatest damage to biodiversity. Remarkably, DNA found in sediments showed that the lake had begun to recover within the past 20 years. Water quality has improved because the land around the lake is used less for agriculture. However, biodiversity is still far from its previous level.
“The loss of biodiversity caused by pollution and rising water temperatures may be irreversible. Species that were found in the lake a hundred years ago but have now disappeared will not all return. It is impossible to return the lake to its original state, even if there is some recovery now.” This research shows that if we fail to protect biodiversity, we may lose much of it forever.
Predict the future
But the researchers’ time machine could also help predict the future. “By learning from the past, our models can help predict the potential loss of biodiversity if we continue as we do now or shift to other climate scenarios. We have demonstrated the value of artificial intelligence-based approaches to interpreting past biodiversity loss. As new data becomes available , AI models can further improve our predictions University of Birmingham.
This research was actually an experiment to test a “time machine.” Now that it has proven successful, researchers want to study more lakes in England and Wales. This way they can see if patterns emerge and whether pollution and climate change have similar impacts on the biodiversity of lakes everywhere.
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