Recent years have seen a surge of interest in ecosystem multifunctionality, a concept that has developed in the largely separate fields of biodiversity–ecosystem function and land management research. Here we discuss the merit of the multifunctionality concept, the advances it has delivered, the challenges it faces and solutions to these challenges. This involves the redefinition of multifunctionality as a property that exists at two levels: ecosystem function multifunctionality and ecosystem service multifunctionality. The framework presented provides a road map for the development of multifunctionality measures that are robust, quantifiable and relevant to both fundamental ecological science and ecosystem management.

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  • 13 August 2018

    In the version of this Perspective originally published, in the figure in Box 3 the middle panel of the top row was incorrectly labelled ‘50% threshold-plus’; it should have read ‘50% threshold’. This has now been corrected.


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C. Penone, M. Felipe Lucia and M. Perring provided useful comments on earlier versions of the paper. P.M. acknowledges support from the German Research Foundation (DFG; MA 7144/1-1). F.T.M. acknowledges support from the European Research Council (ERC grant agreement 647038 (BIODESERT)). We thank the FunDivEUROPE consortium (EU Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013), grant agreement 265171) for support and for the data used in the examples.

Author information


  1. Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung, Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre, 60325, Frankfurt, Germany

    • Peter Manning
    • , Fons van der Plas
    •  & Markus Fischer
  2. Department of Systematic Botany and Functional Biodiversity, University of Leipzig, Johannisallee 21-23, 04103, Leipzig, Germany

    • Fons van der Plas
  3. Institute of Plant Sciences, University of Bern, Altenbergrain 21, 3013, Bern, Switzerland

    • Santiago Soliveres
    • , Eric Allan
    •  & Markus Fischer
  4. Departamento de Biología, Geología, Física y Química Inorgánica, Escuela Superior de Ciencias Experimentales y Tecnología, Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Móstoles, 28933, Spain

    • Fernando T. Maestre
  5. Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment, University College London, Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT, UK

    • Georgina Mace
  6. Biology, School of Natural and Environmental Sciences, Newcastle University, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, NE1 7RU, UK

    • Mark J. Whittingham


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P.M. conceived the study and wrote the initial draft, which was developed and revised by all other authors. P.M. and F.v.d.P. designed and performed analyses.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Peter Manning.

Supplementary information

  1. Supplementary Information

    Supplementary Tables 1 and 2.

  2. Supplementary Note

    R based tutorial demonstrating how ecosystem function and ecosystem service multifunctionality can be quantified, as shown in examples 1 and 2, and the decision-making process behind this

  3. Supplementary Data

    Data used in Examples 1 and 2. Originally used in ref. 51. See ref. 51 for methods

  4. Supplementary Code 1

    R scripts for the quantification of EF-multifunctionality and ES-multifunctionality, used to compute example 1

  5. Supplementary Code 2

    R scripts for the quantification of EF-multifunctionality and ES-multifunctionality, used to compute example 2

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