▪ Abstract 

It has often been argued that conserving biodiversity is necessary for maintaining ecosystem functioning. We critically evaluate the current evidence for this argument. Although there is substantial evidence that diversity is able to affect function, particularly for plant communities, it is unclear if these patterns will hold for realistic scenarios of extinctions, multitrophic communities, or larger spatial scales. Experiments are conducted at small spatial scales, the very scales at which diversity tends to increase owing to exotics. Stressors may affect function by many pathways, and diversity-mediated effects on function may be a minor pathway, except in the case of multiple-stressor insurance effects. In general, the conservation case is stronger for stability measures of function than stock and flux measures, in part because it is easier to attribute value unambiguously to stability and in part because stock and flux measures of functions are anticipated to be more affected by multitrophic dynamics. Nor is biodiversity-ecosystem function theory likely to help conservation managers in practical decisions, except in the particular case of restoration. We give recommendations for increasing the relevance of this area of research for conservation.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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