frogs cool 248.88.
(photo credit: Amir Balaban)
A Hebrew University doctoral student has created a general model to predict how
a number of species will adapt to changes in their habitats, the university
announced on Sunday.
Instead of relying solely on empirical studies as
the basis for habitat conservation, Omri Allouche, a student at the Department
of Evolution, Systematics and Ecology at the Hebrew University, has developed,
under the supervision of Prof. Ronen Kadmon, a predictive mathematical
The UN has declared 2010 the year of biodiversity while climate
change poses a distinct threat to many different ecosystems. Allouche’s model
indicates that some of the basic assumptions regarding protecting species may be
For instance, conservationists expect habitats to be able to
absorb a certain amount of degradation before the species are threatened.
Allouche’s model indicates that there might be a critical point at which
biodiversity suffers a tremendous setback in a given habitat, rather than a more
Another commonly held belief among conservationists is
that improving the habitat will improve biodiversity. However, Allouche’s model
indicates that belief might not be true, as some empirical studies have also
The basis of the theory is a mathematical model that predicts
the number of species expected in an ecological community from properties of the
species (e.g., rates of birth, death, and migration) and the environment (e.g.,
resource availability, habitat loss, frequency of disturbances), according to
Most current models of biodiversity responses to climate
change make the assumption that the dispersal ability of species is unlimited,
according to the Hebrew University. However, Allouche’s Barenholz Prize-winning
work shows that this assumption significantly reduces the predictive power of
such models and can therefore lead to misleading conclusions.
more general model may lead conservationists and policy-makers to take into
account many more factors in their work.
Given the vast array of habitats
and species, theoretical frameworks have been hard to develop based on observed
phenomena. By turning to mathematics, Allouche may be able to abstract the
factors to provide new insights into an increasingly precarious situation.