High biodiversity has been shown to enhance ecological stability on small spatial scales and over intervals of weeks to decades1,2,3,4. It remains unclear, however, whether this diversity–stability relationship can be scaled up to regional scales, or to longer timescales5. Without empirical validation at larger scales, the implications of the diversity–stability relationship for both ecology and long-term conservation strategies cannot readily be resolved. Here I show that in biogenic reefs, ecological stability is related to taxonomic diversity on million-year timescales. The higher the mean reef diversity in a particular time interval, the smaller the change in skeletal density, style of reef building and biotic reef types in the subsequent time interval. Because the relationships apply to a wide spectrum of disturbance regimes and reef types, these results support the hypothesis that species richness itself promotes ecological stability3. Carbonate production by reefs, while closely correlated with reef diversity without temporal lag, is not stabilized by reef diversity over these long timescales. This suggests that ecological stability and productivity may be decoupled in natural ecosystems.
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I thank the DFG and the NSF for support of this research and D. Unwin, D. Lazarus, J. Alroy and M. Aberhan for comments. This is Paleobiology Database publication no. 29.
The author declares that he has no competing financial interests.
Definition of supersequences. (XLS 17 kb)
Definition of ten Myr intervals. (XLS 18 kb)
Definition of stages/epochs. (XLS 19 kb)
Time series of reef diversity at different sample resolution. (PDF 60 kb)
Time series of ecological changes between adjacent time intervals. (PDF 52 kb)
Time series of reef carbonate production at different sample resolution. (PDF 48 kb)
Relationships between detrended reef diversity and detrended measures of ecological change in supersequences. (PDF 54 kb)
Relationships between detrended reef diversity and detrended measures of ecological change in ten Myr intervals. (PDF 58 kb)
Relationships between detrended reef diversity and detrended measures of ecological change in stages/epochs. (PDF 59 kb)
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Kiessling, W. Long-term relationships between ecological stability and biodiversity in Phanerozoic reefs. Nature 433, 410–413 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature03152
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