Are biodiversity - ecosystem function relationships an important ecological paradigm or a distraction from understanding environmental and ecological interactions?

When observing the natural world it is clear that the presence and activity of organisms exert strong influence over the key biological and biogeochemical processes around them and, ultimately, the functioning of marine ecosystems. What has been less clear is how the actual type and variety of organisms has affected process rates and the provision of ecosystem function. It is perhaps easy to assume that highly diverse habitats automatically equate to areas of high function, but is this really the case, and if so, which aspects of diversity are most important? To this end, are traditional descriptors of diversity appropriate for considering biodiversity-ecosystem relationships? In particular, the importance of diversity at other levels of biological organisation may be more appropriate than traditionally measured species-level diversity. To this end, is the search to identify generic biodiversity – ecosystem function relationship distracting us from the study of key ecological and environmental interactions? This presentation will explore some of these ideas and will reflect on whether biodiversity itself plays a role in a variety of ecosystem functions, from more process orientated functions (e.g. productivity), to those functions needed for ecosystem maintenance (e.g. resistance or resilience).

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