• A Corrigendum to this article was published on 25 July 2012

Abstract

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.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

References

  1. 1.

    , & Organisms as ecosystem engineers. Oikos 69, 373–386 (1994)

  2. 2.

    & Ecological Stoichiometry: The Biology of Elements from Molecules to the Biosphere (Princeton Univ. Press, 2002)

  3. 3.

    et al. Challenges in the quest for keystones. Bioscience 46, 609–620 (1996)

  4. 4.

    & Biodiversity and Ecosystem Function (Springer, 1993)This influential book established many of the original hypotheses and ideas that laid the foundation for two decades of empirical work in BEF.

  5. 5.

    , ed. Global Biodiversity Assessment (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1995)

  6. 6.

    et al. DIVERSITAS Report No. 1: DIVERSITAS Science Plan. (2002)

  7. 7.

    & Biodiversity and stability in grasslands. Nature 367, 363–365 (1994)This study, along with ref. 8, started a generation of research that examined how biodiversity influences the functioning of ecosystems.

  8. 8.

    , , , & Declining biodiversity can alter the performance of ecosystems. Nature 368, 734–737 (1994)

  9. 9.

    , & Productivity and sustainability influenced by biodiversity in grassland ecosystems. Nature 379, 718–720 (1996)

  10. 10.

    et al. Plant diversity and productivity experiments in European grasslands. Science 286, 1123–1127 (1999)

  11. 11.

    , & Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning: Synthesis and Perspectives (Oxford Univ. Press, 2002)This book, which followed a 2000 conference in Paris, summarized the first decade of BEF research.

  12. 12.

    et al. The functional role of producer diversity in ecosystems. Am. J. Bot. 98, 572–592 (2011)

  13. 13.

    Nature's Services: Societal Dependence on Natural Ecosystems (Island Press, 1997)This book cemented the notion that natural habitats provide essential goods services to society, and it helped to make ecosystem services a mainstream term.

  14. 14.

    , & The ecology and economics of biodiversity loss—The research agenda. Ambio 21, 201–211 (1992)

  15. 15.

    , & Biodiversity and ecosystem services: a multilayered relationship. Trends Ecol. Evol. 27, 19–26 (2012)

  16. 16.

    Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Biodiversity Synthesis (World Resources Institute, 2005)

  17. 17.

    , & The Functional Consequences of Biodiversity: Empirical Progress and Theoretical Extensions (Princeton Univ. Press, 2002)

  18. 18.

    From Populations to Ecosystems: Theoretical Foundations for a New Ecological Synthesis (Princeton Univ. Press, 2010)

  19. 19.

    , & Plant diversity and ecosystem productivity: Theoretical considerations. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 94, 1857–1861 (1997)

  20. 20.

    & The effect of biodiversity on tree productivity: from temperate to boreal forests. Glob. Ecol. Biogeogr. 20, 170–180 (2011)This paper, along with ref. 21, exemplifies how to quantify biodiversity effects on ecosystem functions at large scales in real ecosystems.

  21. 21.

    et al. Plant species richness and ecosystem multifunctionality in global drylands. Science 335, 214–218 (2012)

  22. 22.

    et al. Global human footprint on the linkage between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in reef fishes. PLoS Biol. 9, e1000606 (2011)

  23. 23.

    et al. Effects of biodiversity on ecosystem functioning: A consensus of current knowledge. Ecol. Monogr. 75, 3–35 (2005)This paper was the last published scientific consensus statement on how biodiversity influences ecosystem functions and services.

  24. 24.

    et al. Quantifying the evidence for biodiversity effects on ecosystem functioning and services. Ecol. Lett. 9, 1146–1156 (2006)This paper, along with ref. 25, was the first to synthesize BEF research via statistical meta-analyses.

  25. 25.

    et al. Effects of biodiversity on the functioning of trophic groups and ecosystems. Nature 443, 989–992 (2006)

  26. 26.

    et al. Impacts of biodiversity loss on ocean ecosystem services. Science 314, 787–790 (2006)

  27. 27.

    et al. Impacts of plant diversity on biomass production increase through time due to complementary resource use: A meta-analysis. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 104, 18123–18128 (2007)

  28. 28.

    , & Understanding the effects of marine biodiversity on communities and ecosystems. Annu. Rev. Ecol. Evol. Syst. 38, 739–766 (2007)

  29. 29.

    & Cascading effects of predator richness. Front. Ecol. Environ 6, 539–546 (2008)

  30. 30.

    et al. in Biodiversity and Human Impacts (eds . et al.) 105–120 (Oxford Univ. Press, 2009)

  31. 31.

    et al. in Biodiversity and Human Impacts (eds . et al.) 14–29 (Oxford Univ. Press, 2009)

  32. 32.

    et al. Diversity has stronger top-down than bottom-up effects on decomposition. Ecology 90, 1073–1083 (2009)

  33. 33.

    , & Plant diversity enhances provision of ecosystem services: A new synthesis. Basic Appl. Ecol. 11, 582–593 (2010)

  34. 34.

    , & Evolutionary history and the effect of biodiversity on plant productivity. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 105, 17012–17017 (2008)

  35. 35.

    , , , & Functional and phylogenetic diversity as predictors of biodiversity-ecosystem-function relationships. Ecology 92, 1573–1581 (2011)

  36. 36.

    , & Biodiversity and plant litter: Experimental evidence which does not support the view that enhanced species richness improves ecosystem function. Oikos 79, 247–258 (1997)

  37. 37.

    & Stability and diversity of ecosystems. Science 317, 58–62 (2008)

  38. 38.

    , & Biodiversity may regulate the temporal variability of ecological systems. Ecol. Lett. 4, 72–85 (2001)

  39. 39.

    & Different effects of species diversity on temporal stability in single-trophic and multitrophic communities. Am. Nat. 174, 651–659 (2009)

  40. 40.

    et al. General stabilizing effects of plant diversity on grassland productivity through population asynchrony and overyielding. Ecology 91, 2213–2220 (2010)

  41. 41.

    , & Experimental design and the outcome and interpretation of diversity-stability relations. Oikos 120, 399–408 (2011)

  42. 42.

    et al. in Biodiversity and Human Impacts (eds et al.) 78–93 (Oxford Univ. Press, 2009)

  43. 43.

    et al. The statistical inevitability of stability-diversity relationships in community ecology. Am. Nat. 151, 264–276 (1998)

  44. 44.

    & The causes and consequences of compensatory dynamics in ecological communities. Annu. Rev. Ecol. Evol. Syst. 40, 393–414 (2009)

  45. 45.

    Why biodiversity is important to the functioning of real-world ecosystems. Front. Ecol. Environ 7, 437–444 (2009)

  46. 46.

    et al. Diversity and productivity in a long-term grassland experiment. Science 294, 843–845 (2001)This experiment continues to be one of the largest and longest running biodiversity studies ever conducted.

  47. 47.

    Hidden treatments in ecological experiments: Re-evaluating the ecosystem function of biodiversity. Oecologia 110, 449–460 (1997)This paper raised several criticisms against early BEF research, which forced the reconsideration of conclusions with better experiments and more rigorous data analyses.

  48. 48.

    & Partitioning selection and complementarity in biodiversity experiments. Nature 412, 72–76 (2001)

  49. 49.

    , & Niche and fitness differences relate the maintenance of diversity to ecosystem function. Ecology 92, 1157–1165 (2011)

  50. 50.

    et al. A cross-ecosystem comparison of the strength of trophic cascades. Ecol. Lett. 5, 785–791 (2002)

  51. 51.

    et al. Trophic downgrading of planet earth. Science 333, 301–306 (2011)This paper summarizes how the extinction of large carnivores has an impact on ecosystem processes, emphasizing the urgent need to integrate trophic interactions into BEF and BES research.

  52. 52.

    et al. The functional role of biodiversity in ecosystems: Incorporating trophic complexity. Ecol. Lett. 10, 522–538 (2007)

  53. 53.

    et al. Incorporating plant functional diversity effects in ecosystem service assessments. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 104, 20684–20689 (2007)This paper outlined a framework for linking species functional traits to ecosystem services, which moves the field of BES research towards more predictive models.

  54. 54.

    , , & Biodiversity effects and transgressive overyielding. J. Plant Ecol. 1, 95–102 (2008)

  55. 55.

    et al. Scaling environmental change through the community-level: a trait-based response-and-effect framework for plants. Glob. Change Biol. 14, 1125–1140 (2008)

  56. 56.

    , & Biodiversity impacts ecosystem productivity as much as resources, disturbance or herbivory. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA (in the press)

  57. 57.

    et al. A global synthesis reveals biodiversity loss as a major driver of ecosystem change. Nature (2 May 2012)

  58. 58.

    , , , eds. Climate Change: The IPCC Scientific Assessment (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2007)

  59. 59.

    , , & Diversity enhances cover and stability of seaweed assemblages: The role of heterogeneity and time. Ecology 89, 3008–3019 (2008)

  60. 60.

    & Biodiversity effects increase linearly with biotope space. Ecol. Lett. 7, 574–583 (2004)

  61. 61.

    , , & Dispersal scales up the biodiversity-productivity relationship in an experimental source-sink metacommunity. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B 277, 2339–2345 (2010)

  62. 62.

    et al. Resource heterogeneity moderates the biodiversity-function relationship in real world ecosystems. PLoS Biol. 6, e122 (2008)

  63. 63.

    Biodiversity improves water quality through niche partitioning. Nature 472, 86–89 (2011)

  64. 64.

    & Niche partitioning increases resource exploitation by diverse communities. Science 321, 1488–1490 (2008)

  65. 65.

    & Biodiversity and ecosystem multifunctionality. Nature 448, 188–190 (2007)

  66. 66.

    , , & Sustaining multiple ecosystem functions in grassland communities requires higher biodiversity. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 107, 1443–1446 (2010)

  67. 67.

    et al. High plant diversity is needed to maintain ecosystem services. Nature 477, 199–202 (2011)

  68. 68.

    , & Preserving the tree of life. Science 300, 1707–1709 (2003)

  69. 69.

    , , & Biodiversity loss threatens human well-being. PLoS Biol. 4, 1300–1305 (2006)

  70. 70.

    et al. Does plant diversity benefit agroecosystems? A synthetic review. Ecol. Appl. 21, 9–21 (2011)

  71. 71.

    et al. Impacts of biodiversity on the emergence and transmission of infectious diseases. Nature 468, 647–652 (2010)

  72. 72.

    , , , & Ecosystem services and dis-services to agriculture. Ecol. Econ. 64, 253–260 (2007)

  73. 73.

    et al. Species and genotype diversity drive community and ecosystem properties in experimental microcosms. Evol. Ecol. 25, 1107–1125 (2011)

  74. 74.

    , & Multiple agents in biological control: improving the odds? Biol. Control 24, 20–30 (2002)

  75. 75.

    , , & Effects of natural enemy biodiversity on the suppression of arthropod herbivores in terrestrial ecosystems. Annu. Rev. Ecol. Evol. Syst. 40, 573–592 (2009)

  76. 76.

    , , , & The influence of intraguild predation on prey suppression and prey release: A meta-analysis. Ecology 88, 2689–2696 (2007)

  77. 77.

    , & Risk factors for human disease emergence. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. B 356, 983–989 (2001)

  78. 78.

    , , & Terrestrial ecosystem responses to species gains and losses. Science 332, 1273–1277 (2011)

  79. 79.

    et al. Extinction and ecosystem function in the marine benthos. Science 306, 1177–1180 (2004)

  80. 80.

    et al. Species loss and aboveground carbon storage in a tropical forest. Science 310, 1029–1031 (2005)

  81. 81.

    & Food-web interactions govern the resistance of communities after non-random extinctions. Nature 429, 174–177 (2004)

  82. 82.

    & Species diversity: from global decreases to local increases. Trends Ecol. Evol. 18, 561–566 (2003)

  83. 83.

    & Aboveground-belowground Linkages: Biotic Interactions, Ecosystem Processes, and Global Change (Oxford Univ. Press, 2010)

  84. 84.

    et al. Ecological impacts of invasive alien plants: a meta-analysis of their effects on species, communities and ecosystems. Ecol. Lett. 14, 702–708 (2011)

  85. 85.

    & Analyzing the effects of species gain and loss on ecosystem function using the extended Price equation partition. Oikos 121, 290–298 (2012)

  86. 86.

    & Evolutionary emergence of size-structured food webs. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 102, 5761–5766 (2005)

  87. 87.

    et al. Simple prediction of interaction strengths in complex food webs. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 106, 187–191 (2009)

  88. 88.

    , , & Interaction strength, food web topology and the relative importance of species in food webs. J. Anim. Ecol. 79, 682–692 (2010)

  89. 89.

    , , & Organismal traits are more important than environment for species interactions in the intertidal zone. Ecol. Lett. 13, 1160–1171 (2010)

  90. 90.

    et al. Paying for ecosystem services-promise and peril. Science 334, 603–604 (2011)

  91. 91.

    et al. Water funds and PES: Practice learns from theory and theory can learn from practice. Oryx 46, 55–63 (2012)

  92. 92.

    et al. TRY—a global database of plant traits. Glob. Change Biol. 17, 2905–2935 (2011)

  93. 93.

    , , , & Natural Capital: Theory & Practice of Mapping Ecosystem Services (Oxford Univ. Press, 2011)This book summarizes the state-of-the-art in modelling ecosystem services.

  94. 94.

    et al. Valuing Ecosystem Services: Toward Better Environmental Decision Making (The National Academies Press, 2005)

  95. 95.

    et al. Trading water for carbon with biological carbon sequestration. Science 310, 1944–1947 (2005)

  96. 96.

    et al. Ecosystem services, targets, and indicators for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. Front. Ecol. Environ 9, 512–520 (2011)

  97. 97.

    et al. Ecosystem services: Free lunch no more response. Science 335, 656–657 (2012)

  98. 98.

    et al. Global biodiversity: Indicators of recent declines. Science 328, 1164–1168 (2010)

  99. 99.

    , , & The biodiversity and ecosystem services science-policy interface. Science 331, 1139–1140 (2011)

  100. 100.

    et al. Biodiversity and ecosystem services science for a sustainable planet: The DIVERSITAS vision for 2012–20. Curr. Opin. Environ. Sust. 4, 101–105 (2012)

Download references

Acknowledgements

This work was conceived as a part of the working group, Biodiversity and the Functioning of Ecosystems: Translating Model Experiments into Functional Reality, supported by the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, a Center funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF Grant EF-0553768), the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the State of California. Additional funds were provided by NFS’ DIMENSIONS of Biodiversity program to BJC (DEB-104612), and by the Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Research Training Network (BESTNet) (NSF Grant 0639252). The use of trade names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the US Government.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. School of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109, USA

    • Bradley J. Cardinale
    • , Patrick Venail
    •  & Anita Narwani
  2. Virginia Institute of Marine Science, The College of William and Mary, Gloucester Point, Virginia 23062, USA

    • J. Emmett Duffy
  3. McGill University, Department of Biology, Montreal, Quebec H3A 1B1, Canada

    • Andrew Gonzalez
  4. Western Washington University, Department of Biology, Bellingham, Washington 98225, USA

    • David U. Hooper
  5. School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona 85287, USA

    • Charles Perrings
    •  & Ann P. Kinzig
  6. Centre for Population Biology, Imperial College London, Silwood Park SL5 7PY, UK

    • Georgina M. Mace
  7. Department of Ecology, Evolution & Behavior, University of Minnesota, Saint Paul, Minnesota 55108, USA

    • David Tilman
  8. Department of Forest Ecology and Management, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, S- 901 83 Umeå, Sweden

    • David A. Wardle
  9. Department of Biology and Woods Institute, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305, USA

    • Gretchen C. Daily
  10. Station d’Ecologie Expérimentale, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, 09200 Moulis, France

    • Michel Loreau
  11. US Geological Survey, National Wetlands Research Center, Lafayette, Louisiana 70506, USA

    • James B. Grace
  12. Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle, 57, Rue Cuvier, CP 41 75231, Paris Cedex 05, France

    • Anne Larigauderie
  13. Department of Zoology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z4, Canada

    • Diane S. Srivastava
  14. Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology, Columbia University, New York, New York 10027, USA

    • Shahid Naeem

Authors

  1. Search for Bradley J. Cardinale in:

  2. Search for J. Emmett Duffy in:

  3. Search for Andrew Gonzalez in:

  4. Search for David U. Hooper in:

  5. Search for Charles Perrings in:

  6. Search for Patrick Venail in:

  7. Search for Anita Narwani in:

  8. Search for Georgina M. Mace in:

  9. Search for David Tilman in:

  10. Search for David A. Wardle in:

  11. Search for Ann P. Kinzig in:

  12. Search for Gretchen C. Daily in:

  13. Search for Michel Loreau in:

  14. Search for James B. Grace in:

  15. Search for Anne Larigauderie in:

  16. Search for Diane S. Srivastava in:

  17. Search for Shahid Naeem in:

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Bradley J. Cardinale.

Supplementary information

PDF files

  1. 1.

    Supplementary Information

    This file contains Supplementary Tables 1-2 and Supplementary References. This file was replaced on 25 July 2012 to correct the errors in Supplementary Table 2.

About this article

Publication history

Published

DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nature11148

Further reading

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.