There’s a pile of papers on my desk. In a corner of my desk, actually, where I don’t have to look at them too often. Here are their titles:
- Minimal increase in genetic diversity enhances predation resistance.
- Plant diversity improves protection against soil-borne pathogens by fostering antagonistic bacterial communities.
- High plant diversity is needed to maintain ecosystem services.
- The functional role of producer diversity in ecosystems.
- Why intraspecific trait variation matters in community ecology.
- Does plant diversity benefit agroecosystems? A synthetic review.
- Genotypic richness and dissimilarity opposingly affect ecosystem functioning.
I just added one yesterday: “Meta-analysis at the intersection of evolutionary ecology and conservation.” You’ve spotted the trend, right? I was planning to write about the whole bunch of them together, a mega-post on the latest thinking on the relationship between biodiversity on the one hand and ecosystem health on the other. They’ve been there for months. I just haven’t been able to get round to them, what with one thing and another. Like work, mainly. And maybe a bit of laziness.
But there’s an upside to prevarication. You wait long enough to do something, if the thing is really important, you’ll find someone does it for you. And so it has proved on this occasion, because “Biodiversity loss and its impact on humanity” has just come out in Nature, and it provides a comprehensive review of the sort of papers that have been sitting in that corner of my desk, lots of them, going back years.
Which means all I need to do here is further summarize the already admirably succinct synthesis that the authors provide.1 And that I think I can do in a few bullet-points:
- Loss of biodiversity (really loss of diversity in functional traits) decreases the efficiency and stability of ecosystems.
- The impacts of biodiversity loss on ecosystem functioning are big, accelerating and predictable.
- Biodiversity is predictably positively correlated with the provisioning of some ecosystem services, but the data in the case of other services is either mixed, insufficient or runs counter to expectation.
No doubt about the importance of genetic diversity to yield, though surprisingly mixed results for species diversity. But look at the numbers of data points involved (N): 575 data syntheses (DS) for genetic diversity and 100 for species diversity. Makes that pile of papers I’ve been avoiding look rather puny. And me not just a bit lazy.
- Apart from maybe also sending you to Mongabay.com for their take. [↩]
- “Data presented here are summarized as follows: green, actual data relationships agree with predictions; yellow, Data show mixed results; red, data conflict with predictions. Exp, experimental; N, number of data points; Obs, observed; SPU, service providing unit (where natural enemies include predators, parasitoids and pathogens).” [↩]