Thursday, October 6, 2011

Linking Biodiversity to Ecosystem Function

This paper by Schwartz et. al. tackles the link between diversity of species and ecosystem function, as previously discussed in lecture. Linking biodiversity to ecosystem function is important for conservation efforts- if an ecosystem performs poorly with more species, a conservation effort would be detrimental. Also, from an anthropocentric point of view, the ecosystem functions should benefit mankind as that will give a incentive for investment into the conservation project. As discussed previously in class, Schwartz et. al. found that moderate amounts of diversity allows for greatest ecosystem function. Too large a diversity isn't common in ecosystems as there are usually a few dominant species in a given area and too small a diversity allows for complete dominance and decreases productivity.

This raises the question of how much diversity do we need? What's the threshold for diversity in a given area? Will that change over time? Education should not focus on trying to increase biodiversity everywhere as ecosystems could be over saturated by human action or some other factor. Since each ecosystem is different, I doubt it would be wise to extrapolate function values from one study to another, thus posing the problem of finding what the optimal biodiversity is in each ecosystem. This would be extremely helpful with restoration efforts as it could give a goal as apposed to trying to get the lands back to previous states, of which diversity vs. functions values are probably unknown. This may be especially important when restoration efforts focus on benefiting the public (using the ecosystem for our benefit).

Adam Schaefer

Schwartz et al. Linking biodiversity to ecosystem function: Implications for Conservation Ecology. Oecologia, February 2000.

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