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rkumazaw's picture

Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning

Studies on the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning have become much more prevalent recently due to increasing concerns about the conservation of biodiversity. What is more important than whether or not biodiversity and ecosystem functioning have a positive relationship but whether or not the curve tends to be linear, or whether the curve is type A (linear) or type B (exponential), according to Schwartz et al. The implications of a type B curve, which is the preferred relationship, is that the loss of biodiversity to a certain point will not have a significant impact on ecosystem functioning, hence why it is often used as a conservation argument. However, as we discussed in class, what is even more important is where the present situation lies on the curve, considering that the biodiversity-ecosystem functioning relationship is a type B curve in real life, because the implications depend on that specific point. If the present situation falls in the flat portion of the curve, it implies that we are not facing an immediate collapse of the ecosystem. On the other hand, if our present situation falls in the portion of the curve with a large slope, it implies that we are already in a critical condition and immediate course of action is crucial. In the case that the former is true, a more clear knowledge of a current situation can enable us to know how much time we have until we reach a critical point and how we should design conservation strategies. However, the problem remains in the unfortunate fact that the answer is unattainable and that there is no way to determine this, at least for now. Furthermore, most studies investigating the biodiversity-ecosystem functioning relationship only concerns species richness as the definition of biodiversity and disregard the importance of species evenness. Schwartz et al. criticizes the studies they analyze in that the experiments with equal abundances for each species do not represent real ecosystems. This alters the results to look more like a type A curve then it actually should. Although species richness is the easiest measure of biodiversity, it is most often not enough.



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