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      A global synthesis reveals biodiversity loss as a major driver of ecosystem change

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          Abstract

          Evidence is mounting that extinctions are altering key processes important to the productivity and sustainability of Earth's ecosystems. Further species loss will accelerate change in ecosystem processes, but it is unclear how these effects compare to the direct effects of other forms of environmental change that are both driving diversity loss and altering ecosystem function. Here we use a suite of meta-analyses of published data to show that the effects of species loss on productivity and decomposition--two processes important in all ecosystems--are of comparable magnitude to the effects of many other global environmental changes. In experiments, intermediate levels of species loss (21-40%) reduced plant production by 5-10%, comparable to previously documented effects of ultraviolet radiation and climate warming. Higher levels of extinction (41-60%) had effects rivalling those of ozone, acidification, elevated CO(2) and nutrient pollution. At intermediate levels, species loss generally had equal or greater effects on decomposition than did elevated CO(2) and nitrogen addition. The identity of species lost also had a large effect on changes in productivity and decomposition, generating a wide range of plausible outcomes for extinction. Despite the need for more studies on interactive effects of diversity loss and environmental changes, our analyses clearly show that the ecosystem consequences of local species loss are as quantitatively significant as the direct effects of several global change stressors that have mobilized major international concern and remediation efforts.

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          Global analysis of nitrogen and phosphorus limitation of primary producers in freshwater, marine and terrestrial ecosystems.

          The cycles of the key nutrient elements nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) have been massively altered by anthropogenic activities. Thus, it is essential to understand how photosynthetic production across diverse ecosystems is, or is not, limited by N and P. Via a large-scale meta-analysis of experimental enrichments, we show that P limitation is equally strong across these major habitats and that N and P limitation are equivalent within both terrestrial and freshwater systems. Furthermore, simultaneous N and P enrichment produces strongly positive synergistic responses in all three environments. Thus, contrary to some prevailing paradigms, freshwater, marine and terrestrial ecosystems are surprisingly similar in terms of N and P limitation.
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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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              NONPOINT POLLUTION OF SURFACE WATERS WITH PHOSPHORUS AND NITROGEN

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Nature
                Nature
                Springer Science and Business Media LLC
                0028-0836
                1476-4687
                June 2012
                May 2 2012
                June 2012
                : 486
                : 7401
                : 105-108
                Article
                10.1038/nature11118
                22678289
                © 2012

                http://www.springer.com/tdm

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