Research ArticleECOLOGY

Habitat diversity and ecosystem multifunctionality—The importance of direct and indirect effects

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Science Advances  08 Feb 2017:
Vol. 3, no. 2, e1601475
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1601475


Ecosystems worldwide are facing habitat homogenization due to human activities. Although it is commonly proposed that such habitat homogenization can have negative repercussions for ecosystem functioning, this question has yet to receive explicit scientific attention. We expand on the framework for evaluating the functional consequences of biodiversity loss by scaling up from the level of species to the level of the entire habitats. Just as species diversity generally fosters ecosystem functioning through positive interspecies interactions, we hypothesize that different habitats within ecosystems can facilitate each other through structural complementarity and through exchange of material and energy across habitats. We show that experimental ecosystems comprised of a diversity of habitats show higher levels of multiple ecosystem functions than ecosystems with low habitat diversity. Our results demonstrate that the effect of habitat diversity on multifunctionality varies with season; it has direct effects on ecosystem functioning in summer and indirect effects, via changes in species diversity, in autumn, but no effect in spring. We propose that joint consideration of habitat diversity and species diversity will prove valuable for both environmental management and basic research.

  • Habitat diversity
  • multifunctionality
  • direct and indirect effects
  • Marine
  • Sediment
  • microbial diversity
  • SEM

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

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