There is growing interest in the effects of changing marine biodiversity on a variety of community properties and ecosystem processes such as nutrient use and cycling, productivity, stability, and trophic transfer. We review published marine experiments that manipulated the number of species, genotypes, or functional groups. This research reveals several emerging generalities. In studies of primary producers and sessile animals, diversity often has a weak effect on production or biomass, especially relative to the strong effect exerted by individual species. However, sessile taxon richness did consistently decrease variability in community properties, and increased resistance to, or recovery from disturbance or invasion. Multitrophic-level studies indicate that, relative to depauperate assemblages of prey species, diverse ones () are more resistant to top-down control, () use their own resources more completely, and () increase consumer fitness. In contrast, predator diversity can either increase or decrease the strength of top-down control because of omnivory and because interactions among predators can have positive and negative effects on herbivores. Recognizing that marine and terrestrial approaches to understanding diversity-function relationships are converging, we close with suggestions for future research that apply across habitats.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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