Global biodiversity is constantly declining, and up-to-date research has shown that biodiversity loss affects the functioning of ecosystems and the services they provide to humans. Biodiversity-ecosystem functioning relations have yet mainly been analyzed in communities where species were randomly removed. In nature however, species are not lost at random, but according to their sensitivity to environmental stress.
In our study “Stressor-induced biodiversity gradients: revisiting biodiversity–ecosystem functioning relationships”, now published Early View in Oikos, we investigated whether biodiversity loss and biodiversity-ecosystem functioning relations in randomly composed diatom communities can be compared to those found in communities exposed to atrazine, one of the most-used pesticides worldwide.
Atrazine exposure resulted in smaller biodiversity loss, but steeper decrease in ecosystem functioning than in randomly assembled diatom communities. This was related to selective atrazine effects on the best performing species, which contributed most to ecosystem functioning but was also most sensitive to atrazine.
Our results imply that biodiversity loss and diversity-functioning relationships found along gradients of environmental stress do not compare to those inferred from the common approach of random community assembly. Species-specific sensitivity and performance need to be considered for a more accurate prediction of biodiversity and ecosystem functioning under stress.
The authors through Christophe Mensens