Predicting ecosystem stability from community composition and biodiversity

Ecology Letters
By: , and 



As biodiversity is declining at an unprecedented rate, an important current scientific challenge is to understand and predict the consequences of biodiversity loss. Here, we develop a theory that predicts the temporal variability of community biomass from the properties of individual component species in monoculture. Our theory shows that biodiversity stabilises ecosystems through three main mechanisms: (1) asynchrony in species’ responses to environmental fluctuations, (2) reduced demographic stochasticity due to overyielding in species mixtures and (3) reduced observation error (including spatial and sampling variability). Parameterised with empirical data from four long-term grassland biodiversity experiments, our prediction explained 22–75% of the observed variability, and captured much of the effect of species richness. Richness stabilised communities mainly by increasing community biomass and reducing the strength of demographic stochasticity. Our approach calls for a re-evaluation of the mechanisms explaining the effects of biodiversity on ecosystem stability.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Predicting ecosystem stability from community composition and biodiversity
Series title Ecology Letters
DOI 10.1111/ele.12088
Volume 16
Issue 5
Year Published 2013
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) National Wetlands Research Center
Description 9 p.
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title Ecology Letters
First page 617
Last page 625
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