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      The ecological importance of intraspecific variation

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          Abstract

          Human activity is causing wild populations to experience rapid trait change and local extirpation. The resulting effects on intraspecific variation could have substantial consequences for ecological processes and ecosystem services. Although researchers have long acknowledged that variation among species influences the surrounding environment, only recently has evidence accumulated for the ecological importance of variation within species. We conducted a meta-analysis comparing the ecological effects of variation within a species (intraspecific effects) with the effects of replacement or removal of that species (species effects). We evaluated direct and indirect ecological responses, including changes in abundance (or biomass), rates of ecological processes and changes in community composition. Our results show that intraspecific effects are often comparable to, and sometimes stronger than, species effects. Species effects tend to be larger for direct ecological responses (for example, through consumption), whereas intraspecific effects and species effects tend to be similar for indirect responses (for example, through trophic cascades). Intraspecific effects are especially strong when indirect interactions alter community composition. Our results summarize data from the first generation of studies examining the relative ecological effects of intraspecific variation. Our conclusions can help inform the design of future experiments and the formulation of strategies to quantify and conserve biodiversity.

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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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            Predation, Body Size, and Composition of Plankton.

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              Challenges in the Quest for Keystones

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Nature Ecology & Evolution
                Nat Ecol Evol
                Springer Nature
                2397-334X
                January 2018
                December 4 2017
                : 2
                : 1
                : 57-64
                Article
                10.1038/s41559-017-0402-5
                29203921
                34f49837-8edf-4db1-bc9c-fc2ed4f40e59
                © 2017

                http://www.springer.com/tdm

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