Recent overviews have suggested that the relationship between species richness and productivity (rate of conversion of resources to biomass per unit area per unit time) is unimodal (hump-shaped). Most agree that productivity affects species richness at large scales, but unanimity is less regarding underlying mechanisms. Recent studies have examined the possibility that variation in species richness within communities may influence productivity, leading to an exploration of the relative effect of alterations in species number per se as contrasted to the addition of productive species. Reviews of the literature concerning deserts, boreal forests, tropical forests, lakes, and wetlands lead to the conclusion that extant data are insufficient to conclusively resolve the relationship between diversity and productivity, or that patterns are variable with mechanisms equally varied and complex. A more comprehensive survey of the ecological literature uncovered approximately 200 relationships, of which 30% were unimodal, 26% were positive linear, 12% were negative linear, and 32% were not significant. Categorization of studies with respect to geographic extent, ecological extent, taxonomic hierarchy, or energetic basis of productivity similarly yielded a heterogeneous distribution of relationships. Theoretical and empirical approaches increasingly suggest scale-dependence in the relationship between species richness and productivity; consequently, synthetic understanding may be contingent on explicit considerations of scale in analytical studies of productivity and diversity.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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