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Letters to Nature
Nature 368, 734 - 737 (21 April 1994); doi:10.1038/368734a0

Declining biodiversity can alter the performance of ecosystems

Shahid Naeem, Lindsey J. Thompson, Sharon P. Lawler, John H. Lawton & Richard M. Woodfin

NERC Centre for Population Biology, Imperial College at Silwood Park, Ascot, Berkshire SL5 7PY, UK

COMMUNITIES of species and their associated biological, chemical and physical processes, collectively known as ecosystems, drive the Earth's biogeochemical processes1,2. Currently most ecosystems are experiencing loss of biodiversity associated with the activities of human expansion3–5, raising the issue of whether the biogeochemical functioning of ecosystems will be impaired by this loss of species6–8. Current ecological knowledge supports a wide range of views on the subject9–13, but empirical tests are few9,14–16. Here we provide evidence from direct experimental manipulation of diversity by over an order of magnitude, using multi-trophic level communities and simultaneous measures of several ecosystem processes, that reduced biodiversity may indeed alter the performance of ecosystems.

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