Shifts of community composition and population density substantially affect ecosystem function despite invariant richness

Jurg W. Spaak*, Jan M. Baert, Donald J. Baird, Nico Eisenhauer, Lorraine Maltby, Francesco Pomati, Viktoriia Radchuk, Jason R. Rohr, Paul J. van den Brink, Frederik De Laender

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterAcademicpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

There has been considerable focus on the impacts of environmental change on ecosystem function arising from changes in species richness. However, environmental change may affect ecosystem function without affecting richness, most notably by affecting population densities and community composition. Using a theoretical model, we find that, despite invariant richness, (1) small environmental effects may already lead to a collapse of function; (2) competitive strength may be a less important determinant of ecosystem function change than the selectivity of the environmental change driver and (3) effects on ecosystem function increase when effects on composition are larger. We also present a complementary statistical analysis of 13 data sets of phytoplankton and periphyton communities exposed to chemical stressors and show that effects on primary production under invariant richness ranged from −75% to +10%. We conclude that environmental protection goals relying on measures of richness could underestimate ecological impacts of environmental change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1315-1324
JournalEcology Letters
Volume20
Issue number10
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Fingerprint

ecosystem function
community composition
environmental change
population density
ecosystems
environmental impact
periphyton
environmental protection
ecological impact
environmental effect
primary production
primary productivity
statistical analysis
species richness
phytoplankton
species diversity
effect

Keywords

  • Algae
  • biodiversity
  • coexistence
  • community ecology
  • modelling
  • primary production

Cite this

Spaak, J. W., Baert, J. M., Baird, D. J., Eisenhauer, N., Maltby, L., Pomati, F., ... De Laender, F. (2017). Shifts of community composition and population density substantially affect ecosystem function despite invariant richness. Ecology Letters, 20(10), 1315-1324. https://doi.org/10.1111/ele.12828
Spaak, Jurg W. ; Baert, Jan M. ; Baird, Donald J. ; Eisenhauer, Nico ; Maltby, Lorraine ; Pomati, Francesco ; Radchuk, Viktoriia ; Rohr, Jason R. ; van den Brink, Paul J. ; De Laender, Frederik. / Shifts of community composition and population density substantially affect ecosystem function despite invariant richness. In: Ecology Letters. 2017 ; Vol. 20, No. 10. pp. 1315-1324.
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abstract = "There has been considerable focus on the impacts of environmental change on ecosystem function arising from changes in species richness. However, environmental change may affect ecosystem function without affecting richness, most notably by affecting population densities and community composition. Using a theoretical model, we find that, despite invariant richness, (1) small environmental effects may already lead to a collapse of function; (2) competitive strength may be a less important determinant of ecosystem function change than the selectivity of the environmental change driver and (3) effects on ecosystem function increase when effects on composition are larger. We also present a complementary statistical analysis of 13 data sets of phytoplankton and periphyton communities exposed to chemical stressors and show that effects on primary production under invariant richness ranged from −75{\%} to +10{\%}. We conclude that environmental protection goals relying on measures of richness could underestimate ecological impacts of environmental change.",
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Spaak, JW, Baert, JM, Baird, DJ, Eisenhauer, N, Maltby, L, Pomati, F, Radchuk, V, Rohr, JR, van den Brink, PJ & De Laender, F 2017, 'Shifts of community composition and population density substantially affect ecosystem function despite invariant richness', Ecology Letters, vol. 20, no. 10, pp. 1315-1324. https://doi.org/10.1111/ele.12828

Shifts of community composition and population density substantially affect ecosystem function despite invariant richness. / Spaak, Jurg W.; Baert, Jan M.; Baird, Donald J.; Eisenhauer, Nico; Maltby, Lorraine; Pomati, Francesco; Radchuk, Viktoriia; Rohr, Jason R.; van den Brink, Paul J.; De Laender, Frederik.

In: Ecology Letters, Vol. 20, No. 10, 2017, p. 1315-1324.

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterAcademicpeer-review

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T1 - Shifts of community composition and population density substantially affect ecosystem function despite invariant richness

AU - Spaak, Jurg W.

AU - Baert, Jan M.

AU - Baird, Donald J.

AU - Eisenhauer, Nico

AU - Maltby, Lorraine

AU - Pomati, Francesco

AU - Radchuk, Viktoriia

AU - Rohr, Jason R.

AU - van den Brink, Paul J.

AU - De Laender, Frederik

PY - 2017

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N2 - There has been considerable focus on the impacts of environmental change on ecosystem function arising from changes in species richness. However, environmental change may affect ecosystem function without affecting richness, most notably by affecting population densities and community composition. Using a theoretical model, we find that, despite invariant richness, (1) small environmental effects may already lead to a collapse of function; (2) competitive strength may be a less important determinant of ecosystem function change than the selectivity of the environmental change driver and (3) effects on ecosystem function increase when effects on composition are larger. We also present a complementary statistical analysis of 13 data sets of phytoplankton and periphyton communities exposed to chemical stressors and show that effects on primary production under invariant richness ranged from −75% to +10%. We conclude that environmental protection goals relying on measures of richness could underestimate ecological impacts of environmental change.

AB - There has been considerable focus on the impacts of environmental change on ecosystem function arising from changes in species richness. However, environmental change may affect ecosystem function without affecting richness, most notably by affecting population densities and community composition. Using a theoretical model, we find that, despite invariant richness, (1) small environmental effects may already lead to a collapse of function; (2) competitive strength may be a less important determinant of ecosystem function change than the selectivity of the environmental change driver and (3) effects on ecosystem function increase when effects on composition are larger. We also present a complementary statistical analysis of 13 data sets of phytoplankton and periphyton communities exposed to chemical stressors and show that effects on primary production under invariant richness ranged from −75% to +10%. We conclude that environmental protection goals relying on measures of richness could underestimate ecological impacts of environmental change.

KW - Algae

KW - biodiversity

KW - coexistence

KW - community ecology

KW - modelling

KW - primary production

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