Consumer diversity across kingdoms supports multiple functions in a coastal ecosystem
The global biodiversity crisis impairs the valuable benefits ecosystems provide humans. These nature-generated benefits are defined by a multitude of different ecosystem functions that operate simultaneously. Although several studies have simulated species loss in communities and tracked the response of single functions such as productivity or nutrient cycling, these studies have involved relatively similar taxa, and seldom are strikingly different functions examined. With the exception of highly managed ecosystems such as agricultural fields, rarely are we interested in only one function being performed well. Instead, we rely on ecosystems to deliver several different functions at the same time. Here, we experimentally investigated the extinction impacts of dominant consumers in a salt marsh. These consumers are remarkably phylogenetically diverse, spanning two kingdoms (i.e., Animalia and Fungi). Our field studies reveal that a diverse consumer assemblage significantly enhances simultaneous functioning of disparate ecosystem processes (i.e., productivity, decomposition, and infiltration). Extreme functional and phylogenetic differences among consumers underlie this relationship. Each marsh consumer affected at least one different ecosystem function, and each individual function was affected by no more than two consumers. The implications of these findings are profound: If we want ecosystems to perform many different functions well, it is not just number of species that matter. Rather, the presence of species representing markedly different ecologies and biology is also essential to maximizing multiple functions. Moreover, this work emphasizes the need to incorporate both microcomponents and macrocomponents of food webs to accurately predict biodiversity declines on integrated-ecosystem functioning.
Hensel, MJS; Silliman, BR
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