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The big ecological roles of small natural features

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July 5, 2017 University of Maine  see ScienceDaily article here

Small natural features have big ecological roles but are often overlooked, according to an international team of researchers exploring the disproportionate ecological importance of the small, but unique, environmental elements that provide significant ecological and economic impacts.

….Desert springs. Caves harboring bat colonies. Rocky outcrops. Strips of natural vegetation edging agricultural fields. Riparian zones. Small coral heads. Tiny islands. Large old trees. These small natural features are often overlooked, relatively vulnerable yet environmentally mighty in their ecosystem…

Small natural features have big ecological roles, according to the 37 researchers from 11 countries writing in a Special Issue of “Biological Conservation.” Sometimes they can provide resources that limit key populations or processes that influence a much larger area. Sometimes they support unusual diversity, abundance or productivity…. [they] can [also] involve small-scale, cost-effective protection and be easier to restore.

Malcolm L. Hunter. Conserving small natural features with large ecological roles: An introduction and definition. Biological Conservation, 2017; 211: 1 DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2016.12.019

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