To its long list of achievements we may now be able to add the one crowning glory many think Google has long lusted after - the secret of how to save the planet.

In a roundabout way, that's one possible outcome of applying Google's PageRank web algorithm to analyse how natural ecosystems are connected internally.

Who are you eating?

Scientists writing in the latest issue of industry journal PLoS Computational Biology say the same PageRank techniques used to analyse how 'important' websites are can be used to ascertain the role of individual organisms in an ecosystem.

This analysis of food webs - who eats whom, basically - can shed light on what might happen should one part of an ecosystem be damaged or destroyed.

Practical applications

So, for example, pollution destroying one kind of marine organism might give rise to wide scale algal blooms that could influence global warming or have other adverse effects. Understanding such relationships will, clearly, be crucial in avoiding damage to them.

So far, the work with PageRank has been well received by the specialists. WWF-UK director Dr Glyn Davies said: "Any research that strengthens our understanding of the complex web of ecological processes that bind us all is welcome."

Now, if only the guys in white coats can do something about junk email then we'll be really happy.

Via BBC