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Predicting ecosystem stability from community composition and biodiversity


Abstract

As biodiversity is declining at an unprecedented rate, an important current scientific challenge is to understand and predict the consequences of biodiversity loss. Here we develop a theory that predicts the temporal variability of community biomass from the properties of individual component species in monoculture. Our theory shows that biodiversity stabilises ecosystems through three main mechanisms: (1) asynchrony in species’ responses to environmental fluctuations, (2) reduced demographic stochasticity due to overyielding in species mixtures, and (3) reduced observation error (including spatial and sampling variability). Parameterized with empirical data from four long-term grassland biodiversity experiments, our prediction explained 22–75% of the observed variability, and captured much of the effect of species richness. Richness stabilized communities mainly by increasing community biomass and reducing the strength of demographic stochasticity. Our approach calls for a re-evaluation of the mechanisms explaining the effects of biodiversity on ecosystem stability.

Abstract

As biodiversity is declining at an unprecedented rate, an important current scientific challenge is to understand and predict the consequences of biodiversity loss. Here we develop a theory that predicts the temporal variability of community biomass from the properties of individual component species in monoculture. Our theory shows that biodiversity stabilises ecosystems through three main mechanisms: (1) asynchrony in species’ responses to environmental fluctuations, (2) reduced demographic stochasticity due to overyielding in species mixtures, and (3) reduced observation error (including spatial and sampling variability). Parameterized with empirical data from four long-term grassland biodiversity experiments, our prediction explained 22–75% of the observed variability, and captured much of the effect of species richness. Richness stabilized communities mainly by increasing community biomass and reducing the strength of demographic stochasticity. Our approach calls for a re-evaluation of the mechanisms explaining the effects of biodiversity on ecosystem stability.

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57 citations in Web of Science®
61 citations in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Special Collections > SystemsX.ch
Special Collections > SystemsX.ch > Interdisciplinary Pilot Projects
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Language:English
Date:May 2013
Deposited On:31 May 2013 12:08
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 16:47
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell
ISSN:1461-023X
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1111/ele.12088

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