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      Genetic diversity enhances the resistance of a seagrass ecosystem to disturbance

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      Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

      Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

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          Abstract

          Motivated by recent global reductions in biodiversity, empirical and theoretical research suggests that more species-rich systems exhibit enhanced productivity, nutrient cycling, or resistance to disturbance or invasion relative to systems with fewer species. In contrast, few data are available to assess the potential ecosystem-level importance of genetic diversity within species known to play a major functional role. Using a manipulative field experiment, we show that increasing genotypic diversity in a habitat-forming species (the seagrass Zostera marina) enhances community resistance to disturbance by grazing geese. The time required for recovery to near predisturbance densities also decreases with increasing eelgrass genotypic diversity. However, there is no effect of diversity on resilience, measured as the rate of shoot recovery after the disturbance, suggesting that more rapid recovery in diverse plots is due solely to differences in disturbance resistance. Genotypic diversity did not affect ecosystem processes in the absence of disturbance. Thus, our results suggest that genetic diversity, like species diversity, may be most important for enhancing the consistency and reliability of ecosystems by providing biological insurance against environmental change.

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          Most cited references 18

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          Biodiversity and stability in grasslands

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            Plant Diversity and Productivity Experiments in European Grasslands

             A. Hector (1999)
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              Plant diversity and ecosystem productivity: theoretical considerations.

              Ecosystem processes are thought to depend on both the number and identity of the species present in an ecosystem, but mathematical theory predicting this has been lacking. Here we present three simple models of interspecific competitive interactions in communities containing various numbers of randomly chosen species. All three models predict that, on average, productivity increases asymptotically with the original biodiversity of a community. The two models that address plant nutrient competition also predict that ecosystem nutrient retention increases with biodiversity and that the effects of biodiversity on productivity and nutrient retention increase with interspecific differences in resource requirements. All three models show that both species identity and biodiversity simultaneously influence ecosystem functioning, but their relative importance varies greatly among the models. This theory reinforces recent experimental results and shows that effects of biodiversity on ecosystem functioning are predicted by well-known ecological processes.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                PNAS
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                0027-8424
                1091-6490
                June 15 2004
                June 15 2004
                June 15 2004
                June 07 2004
                : 101
                : 24
                : 8998-9002
                Article
                10.1073/pnas.0402642101
                428461
                15184681
                2a4b0ae8-d9e8-45b8-8cad-318b0ae1e936
                © 2004

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