Biological diversity, also known as biodiversity, is the study of organisms (plant and animal) within an ecosystem. This usually involves the studying of the different populations within the ecosystem, the degree of genetic variations of the species within the ecosystem and the accumulated effects those species provide to each other. This is based on the idea that species have a direct and/or indirect impact on other species in the same ecosystem.
Over the years, one of the main purposes for biodiversity studies has been for the preservation of rare and endangered species. The unfortunate side of these biodiversity studies is that the ecosystems being studied have often been damaged or altered by artificial means, mainly by man’s interference.
Biodiversity is also beening used as an evolutionary tool. They believe that certain interactions between some members of an ecosystem can actually speed up evolutionary changes which further affect the biodiversity of the surrounding community. One such interrelationship of particular importance to their evolutionary theory is that between plants and their pollinators, especially insects.
However, a new set of studies reveal that in some instances, the interactions between some plants and their insect pollinators are not only less likely to increase diversity than they expected, but may also cause a reduction in diversity.
The Mojave Desert in the southwestern part of the United States is characterized by the Joshua tree. Joshua trees produce large clusters of white flowers that contain sticky pollen. Left on its own, the pollen is unable to reach the pistil (female part of the flower) and pollinate it. Without pollination, the Joshua tree flowers are unable to produce seeds and repopulate itself in the desert.
Numerous studies conducted in the past have shown that there is a special relationship between the Joshua trees and certain moths that pollinate them. Some Joshua trees produce larger flowers and others produce smaller flowers. The studies showed that moths with longer ovipositors (the body part they use to lay eggs) favored the larger flowers and moths with shorter ovipositors favored smaller flowers. Based on these studies, evolutionary biologists expected the moths and Joshua trees would adapt to each other’s traits as predicted by an evolutionary understanding of biodiversity.
Guess what? The recent studies conducted by both field study and mathematic modeling on the relationships of the Joshua trees and moths did not follow the evolutionary constructs of biodiversity. In fact, the researchers discovered little to no evidence of biodiversity among the populations. As William Godsoe,one researchers from the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis reported: We had previously observed two species of moths and have shown that the larger moth species uses large flowers and the smaller moth species uses smaller flowers. However, once we account for this difference, there no evidence that moths have adapted to flowers.1
Another study conducted by biologists at the University of Idaho, used a mathematical model to analyze the various relationships between species within an ecosystem to determine the evolutionary effects of biodiversity. When they looked at the interrelationships between the Joshua trees and moths, they found that it did not increase the diversity between them. Jeremy Yoder one of the Idaho biologists said: The patterns we’re finding in the Joshua tree and moth data are exactly what we expect from the theory. Coevolution between Joshua tree and its pollinators acts to reduce the variation within species, which creates stronger contrasts between moth species and Joshua tree varieties.2
Instead of following the evolutionary paradigm of increasing the diversity or variation within species, the interactions of the Joshua trees and moths went in the opposite direction and reduced the diversity. I guess the moths and Joshua trees haven’t read the evolutionary literature to know what they are suppose to do.
Biodiversity is an important field of study if conducted for the right reasons. Plants and animals in an ecosystem do interact and affect each other in many ways and the more we study these interactions, the better we can carry out the Dominion Mandate that God gave Adam in Genesis 1. However, when you approach a field of study with the wrong presuppositions, you’re going to be surprised when the results don’t match your erroneous predictions.
- “The Puzzle of Biological Diversity”, Science Daily, Nov. 23, 2010.