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Model shows how even thriving species can go extinct

Cara J

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Physicists may not be the scientists you’d expect to tackle conservation issues, but a group of them recently used modeling technique to show how species — even ones that are thriving— may be vulnerable to extinction. In a new study published in the European Physical Journal B, a team of researchers determined how fluctuations in environmental factors like water supply and temperature could impact wildlife populations. The team, including lead author Thomas Vojta, a physics professor at Missouri University of Science and Technology, used a computational model that looked at the behavior of a biological population over many generations. They determined how fluctuations in the environment affected factors such as procreation and competition for resources — factors that can cause populations to become extinct. “What we have is an abstract model that describes broad trends in behavior,” Vojta said. “If we want to apply this to a particular species, we need much more biological information on the species.” Using the model, Vojta and his colleagues found that environmental disturbances, such as a few years of drought or unusually high temperatures, could cause enormous variations in population size and eventually lead to sudden population collapses, even in populations that started with [...]


Read more: http://wildlife.org/model-shows-how-even-thriving-species-can-go-extinct/

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