Editor's Summary

12 July 2007

The more the merrier


The question of whether species extinctions alter the productivity of species communities and ecosystem function was for many years a subject of controversy. A series of meta-analyses had established something like consensus: species loss does impair ecological function, but it depends which species are lost: and many species appear to be functionally redundant. In the past though, research has focused on individual ecosystem processes, despite the fact that most ecosystems are managed for several ecosystem services. Andy Hector and Robert Bagchi have analysed published data from grassland biodiversity experiments to look at the relationship between biodiversity and multiple ecological processes. They find that different species often influence different ecosystem functions, so studies that look at just one ecosystem process may miss the big picture. Multifunctional ecosystems may therefore require greater biodiversity to ensure their survival than has been suggested by previous studies.

LetterBiodiversity and ecosystem multifunctionality

Andy Hector & Robert Bagchi

doi:10.1038/nature05947