A graphical null model for scaling biodiversity–ecosystem functioning relationships

Kathryn E. Barry, Gabriella A. Pinter, Joseph W. Strini, Karrisa Yang, Istvan G. Lauko, Stefan A. Schnitzer, Adam T. Clark, Jane Cowles, Akira S. Mori, Laura Williams, Peter B. Reich, Alexandra J. Wright

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Global biodiversity is declining at rates faster than at any other point in human history. Experimental manipulations at small spatial scales have demonstrated that communities with fewer species consistently produce less biomass than higher diversity communities. Understanding the consequences of the global extinction crisis for ecosystem functioning requires understanding how local experimental results are likely to change with increasing spatial and temporal scales and from experiments to naturally assembled systems. Scaling across time and space in a changing world requires baseline predictions. Here, we provide a graphical null model for area scaling of biodiversity–ecosystem functioning relationships using observed macroecological patterns: the species–area curve and the biomass–area curve. We use species–area and biomass–area curves to predict how species richness–biomass relationships are likely to change with increasing sampling extent. We then validate these predictions with data from two naturally assembled ecosystems: a Minnesota savanna and a Panamanian tropical dry forest. Our graphical null model predicts that biodiversity–ecosystem functioning relationships are scale-dependent. However, we note two important caveats. First, our results indicate an apparent contradiction between predictions based on measurements in biodiversity–ecosystem functioning experiments and from scaling theory. When ecosystem functioning is measured as per unit area (e.g. biomass per m2), as is common in biodiversity–ecosystem functioning experiments, the slope of the biodiversity ecosystem functioning relationship should decrease with increasing scale. Alternatively, when ecosystem functioning is not measured per unit area (e.g. summed total biomass), as is common in scaling studies, the slope of the biodiversity–ecosystem functioning relationship should increase with increasing spatial scale. Second, the underlying macroecological patterns of biodiversity experiments are predictably different from some naturally assembled systems. These differences between the underlying patterns of experiments and naturally assembled systems may enable us to better understand when patterns from biodiversity–ecosystem functioning experiments will be valid in naturally assembled systems. Synthesis. This paper provides a simple graphical null model that can be extended to any relationship between biodiversity and any ecosystem functioning across space or time. Furthermore, these predictions provide crucial insights into how and when we may be able to extend results from small-scale biodiversity experiments to naturally assembled regional and global ecosystems where biodiversity is changing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1549-1560
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Ecology
Volume109
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding for the collection of field data at Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve was provided by the National Science Foundation Grant DUE-1129056 to G.A.P. and I.G.L. for the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Undergraduate Research in Biology and Mathematics (UBM) program. Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve was funded by NSF Long Term Ecological Research funds DEB-8114302, DEB-811884, DEB-9411972, DEB-0080382, DEB-0620652 and DEB-1234162. The BCI forest dynamics research project was founded by S.P. Hubbell and R.B. Foster and is now managed by R. Condit, S. Lao and R. Perez under the Center for Tropical Forest Science and the Smithsonian Tropical Research in Panama. Numerous organizations have provided funding, principally the U.S. National Science Foundation, and hundreds of field workers have contributed. Funding for K.E.B. was provided by a German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) flexible pool grant for ?Community Assembly and the Functioning of Ecosystems?. Funding for A.J.W. was also provided by CSULA startup funds. K.E.B. and A.T.C. are further supported by iDiv (German Research Foundation?FZT 118). This work was partially catalysed by an NCEAS/LTER-NCO working group containing J.C., A.T.C., A.S.M., L.W. and A.J.W. funded by the NSF LTER program (DEB-1234162) and the LTER Network Communications Office (DEB-1545288). Group leaders are F. Isbell, J. Cowles and L. Dee. Open access funding enabled and organized by ProjektDEAL.

Funding Information:
Funding for the collection of field data at Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve was provided by the National Science Foundation Grant DUE‐1129056 to G.A.P. and I.G.L. for the University of Wisconsin‐Milwaukee Undergraduate Research in Biology and Mathematics (UBM) program. Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve was funded by NSF Long Term Ecological Research funds DEB‐8114302, DEB‐811884, DEB‐9411972, DEB‐0080382, DEB‐0620652 and DEB‐1234162. The BCI forest dynamics research project was founded by S.P. Hubbell and R.B. Foster and is now managed by R. Condit, S. Lao and R. Perez under the Center for Tropical Forest Science and the Smithsonian Tropical Research in Panama. Numerous organizations have provided funding, principally the U.S. National Science Foundation, and hundreds of field workers have contributed. Funding for K.E.B. was provided by a German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) flexible pool grant for ‘Community Assembly and the Functioning of Ecosystems’. Funding for A.J.W. was also provided by CSULA startup funds. K.E.B. and A.T.C. are further supported by iDiv (German Research Foundation—FZT 118). This work was partially catalysed by an NCEAS/LTER‐NCO working group containing J.C., A.T.C., A.S.M., L.W. and A.J.W. funded by the NSF LTER program (DEB‐1234162) and the LTER Network Communications Office (DEB‐1545288). Group leaders are F. Isbell, J. Cowles and L. Dee. Open access funding enabled and organized by ProjektDEAL.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Authors. Journal of Ecology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Ecological Society

Keywords

  • grasslands
  • productivity
  • species richness–area relationship
  • statistical scaling
  • upscaling

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