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Characterizations of how species mediate ecosystem properties require more comprehensive functional effect descriptors

Characterizations of how species mediate ecosystem properties require more comprehensive functional effect descriptors
Characterizations of how species mediate ecosystem properties require more comprehensive functional effect descriptors
The importance of individual species in mediating ecosystem process and functioning is generally accepted, but categorical descriptors that summarize species-specific contributions to ecosystems tend to reference a limited number of biological traits and underestimate the importance of how organisms interact with their environment. Here, we show how three functionally contrasting sediment-dwelling marine invertebrates affect fluid and particle transport - important processes in mediating nutrient cycling - and use high-resolution reconstructions of burrow geometry to determine the extent and nature of biogenic modification. We find that individual functional effect descriptors fall short of being able to adequately characterize how species mediate the stocks and flows of important ecosystem properties and that, in contrary to common practice and understanding, they are not substitutable with one another because they emphasize different aspects of species activity and behavior. When information derived from these metrics is combined with knowledge of how species behave and modify their environment, however, detailed mechanistic information emerges that increases the likelihood that a species functional standing will be appropriately summarized. Our study provides evidence that more comprehensive functional effect descriptors are required if they are to be of value to those tasked with projecting how altered biodiversity will influence future ecosystems.
Climate-change ecology, Biogeochemistry, Community ecology, Ecosystem ecology
6463
Hale, R.
e5dfde12-523c-4000-ad0e-3431ffeafac1
Mavrogordato, M.N.
f3e0879b-118a-463a-a130-1c890e9ab547
Tolhurst, T.J.
53466d1f-6491-4b7c-9812-702cd0d391d5
Solan, M.
a05395b0-1720-4ceb-a8a9-6d85f643dc51
Hale, R.
e5dfde12-523c-4000-ad0e-3431ffeafac1
Mavrogordato, M.N.
f3e0879b-118a-463a-a130-1c890e9ab547
Tolhurst, T.J.
53466d1f-6491-4b7c-9812-702cd0d391d5
Solan, M.
a05395b0-1720-4ceb-a8a9-6d85f643dc51

Hale, R., Mavrogordato, M.N., Tolhurst, T.J. and Solan, M. (2014) Characterizations of how species mediate ecosystem properties require more comprehensive functional effect descriptors. Scientific Reports, 4, 6463. (doi:10.1038/srep06463).

Record type: Article

Abstract

The importance of individual species in mediating ecosystem process and functioning is generally accepted, but categorical descriptors that summarize species-specific contributions to ecosystems tend to reference a limited number of biological traits and underestimate the importance of how organisms interact with their environment. Here, we show how three functionally contrasting sediment-dwelling marine invertebrates affect fluid and particle transport - important processes in mediating nutrient cycling - and use high-resolution reconstructions of burrow geometry to determine the extent and nature of biogenic modification. We find that individual functional effect descriptors fall short of being able to adequately characterize how species mediate the stocks and flows of important ecosystem properties and that, in contrary to common practice and understanding, they are not substitutable with one another because they emphasize different aspects of species activity and behavior. When information derived from these metrics is combined with knowledge of how species behave and modify their environment, however, detailed mechanistic information emerges that increases the likelihood that a species functional standing will be appropriately summarized. Our study provides evidence that more comprehensive functional effect descriptors are required if they are to be of value to those tasked with projecting how altered biodiversity will influence future ecosystems.

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More information

Published date: 24 September 2014
Keywords: Climate-change ecology, Biogeochemistry, Community ecology, Ecosystem ecology
Organisations: Ocean and Earth Science, Engineering Science Unit

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 369761
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/369761
PURE UUID: 93030272-9c50-442c-84e8-a5212b14b9f2
ORCID for R. Hale: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0001-5079-5954

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 06 Oct 2014 13:05
Last modified: 17 Dec 2019 01:36

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Contributors

Author: R. Hale ORCID iD
Author: T.J. Tolhurst
Author: M. Solan

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