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To what extent can ecosystem services motivate protecting biodiversity?

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Ecology Letters

Wiley-Blackwell

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      Biodiversity loss and its impact on humanity.

      The most unique feature of Earth is the existence of life, and the most extraordinary feature of life is its diversity. Approximately 9 million types of plants, animals, protists and fungi inhabit the Earth. So, too, do 7 billion people. Two decades ago, at the first Earth Summit, the vast majority of the world's nations declared that human actions were dismantling the Earth's ecosystems, eliminating genes, species and biological traits at an alarming rate. This observation led to the question of how such loss of biological diversity will alter the functioning of ecosystems and their ability to provide society with the goods and services needed to prosper.
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        Biodiversity and ecosystem functioning: current knowledge and future challenges.

        The ecological consequences of biodiversity loss have aroused considerable interest and controversy during the past decade. Major advances have been made in describing the relationship between species diversity and ecosystem processes, in identifying functionally important species, and in revealing underlying mechanisms. There is, however, uncertainty as to how results obtained in recent experiments scale up to landscape and regional levels and generalize across ecosystem types and processes. Larger numbers of species are probably needed to reduce temporal variability in ecosystem processes in changing environments. A major future challenge is to determine how biodiversity dynamics, ecosystem processes, and abiotic factors interact.
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          Quantifying the evidence for biodiversity effects on ecosystem functioning and services.

          Concern is growing about the consequences of biodiversity loss for ecosystem functioning, for the provision of ecosystem services, and for human well being. Experimental evidence for a relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem process rates is compelling, but the issue remains contentious. Here, we present the first rigorous quantitative assessment of this relationship through meta-analysis of experimental work spanning 50 years to June 2004. We analysed 446 measures of biodiversity effects (252 in grasslands), 319 of which involved primary producer manipulations or measurements. Our analyses show that: biodiversity effects are weaker if biodiversity manipulations are less well controlled; effects of biodiversity change on processes are weaker at the ecosystem compared with the community level and are negative at the population level; productivity-related effects decline with increasing number of trophic links between those elements manipulated and those measured; biodiversity effects on stability measures ('insurance' effects) are not stronger than biodiversity effects on performance measures. For those ecosystem services which could be assessed here, there is clear evidence that biodiversity has positive effects on most. Whilst such patterns should be further confirmed, a precautionary approach to biodiversity management would seem prudent in the meantime.
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            Author and article information

            Journal
            Ecology Letters
            Ecol Lett
            Wiley-Blackwell
            1461023X
            August 2017
            August 28 2017
            : 20
            : 8
            : 935-946
            10.1111/ele.12790
            (Editor)
            © 2017

            http://doi.wiley.com/10.1002/tdm_license_1.1

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