Biodiversity moves beyond counting species

For decades, the study of biodiversity was essentially a numbers game: the more species an ecosystem had, the more stable and resilient to change it was thought to be. That mindset made sense because there was so little information available about the structures of an ecosystem and the functions of species within it. The technology didn’t exist to measure many traits or to process the large amount of data that would have resulted if they could have been measured. Various developments have changed that.

Advances in molecular biology have enabled the study of microbes en masse. Satellites can assess traits such as tree-canopy height and marine plankton productivity. And leaps in statistical tools and computing power have helped to make use of all the data that are now being generated.

Read the full story in Nature.