Biodiversity promotes ecosystem multitasking

Today, colleagues from around the globe and I published a paper in Nature Communications titled “Biodiversity enhances ecosystem multifunctionality across trophic levels and habitats.” The paper is an important step forward in connecting biological diversity — the variety of organisms living in an ecosystem — to the myriad processes operating in natural, functioning ecosystems. Its worth digging a bit into this analysis, and explaining a little bit about why its important.

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Marine biodiversity and ecosystem functioning: what’s new and what’s next

(This is a cross-post with the Oikos blog promoting our new synthesis on marine biodiversity and ecosystem function research. Check out the open-access PDF here!)

In our new paper just published online early in Oikos, we synthesise our current understanding of the functional consequences of changes in species richness in the marine realm. For those familiar with the field of biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, the first question might well be: do we really need yet another meta-analysis on this topic? I mean, really. There have been several meta-analyses published in recent years. Do we really need this work?

Well, our answer to the question is yes.  Here’s why.

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BioDiverse Perspectives

I’m happy to announce the launch of the new blog, BioDiverse Perspectives! The blog is a cooperative effort by graduate students all over the world blogging on the topic of biodiversity science, using casual, approachable language to initiate discussion amongst the next generation of biodiversity researchers. The project is funded through the NSF’s Dimensions of Biodiversity Distributed Graduate Seminar (which I previously blogged about here). Each article revisits a foundational paper in biodiversity research, or highlights emerging new concepts in the field. The purpose is to stimulate discussion amongst graduate students in the digital age. So stop by, read an article (or contribute one), and leave a comment! A big thanks to co-PI Julia Parrish, Hillary Burgess, and the University of Washington for making the blog possible.

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Diversity as effective numbers

For decades, biologists and ecologists have largely characterized biological diversity using metrics based on entropy, a concept rooted in information theory that suggests one can quantify the degree of uncertainty associated with predicting bits and pieces of information. In ecology, this has boiled down to determining whether species drawn from a community are the same or different. The metrics will sound familiar to anyone who has taken an introductory ecology class–the Shannon index, Simpson diversity–but Lou Jost, Anne Chao, and others have highlighted the fact that the non-linearity of these indices may lead researchers to grossly misinterpret the underlying diversity of the community in question.

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