Linking biodiversity to ecosystem function: implications for conservation ecology

M W SchwartzP J van Mantgem


We evaluate the empirical and theoretical support for the hypothesis that a large proportion of native species richness is required to maximize ecosystem stability and sustain function. This assessment is important for conservation strategies because sustenance of ecosystem functions has been used as an argument for the conservation of species. If ecosystem functions are sustained at relatively low species richness, then arguing for the conservation of ecosystem function, no matter how important in its own right, does not strongly argue for the conservation of species. Additionally, for this to be a strong conservation argument the link between species diversity and ecosystem functions of value to the human community must be clear. We review the empirical literature to quantify the support for two hypotheses: (1) species richness is positively correlated with ecosystem function, and (2) ecosystem functions do not saturate at low species richness relative to the observed or experimental diversity. Few empirical studies demonstrate improved function at high levels of species richness. Second, we analyze recent theoretical models in order to estimate the level of species richness required to maintain ecosystem function. Again we f...Continue Reading


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