Evenness effects mask richness effects on ecosystem functioning at macro-scales in lakes

Christopher T. Filstrup, Katelyn B.S. King, Ian M. McCullough

Research output: Contribution to journalLetter


Biodiversity–ecosystem functioning (BEF) theory has largely focused on species richness, although studies have demonstrated that evenness may have stronger effects. While theory and numerous small-scale studies support positive BEF relationships, regional studies have documented negative effects of evenness on ecosystem functioning. We analysed a lake dataset spanning the continental US to evaluate whether strong evenness effects are common at broad spatial scales and if BEF relationships are similar across diverse regions and trophic levels. At the continental scale, phytoplankton evenness explained more variance in phytoplankton and zooplankton resource use efficiency (RUE; ratio of biomass to resources) than richness. For individual regions, slopes of phytoplankton evenness–RUE relationships were consistently negative and positive for phytoplankton and zooplankton RUE, respectively, and most slopes did not significantly differ among regions. Findings suggest that negative evenness effects may be more common than previously documented and are not exceptions restricted to highly disturbed systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2120-2129
Number of pages10
JournalEcology letters
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Biodiversity
  • National Lakes Assessment
  • ecosystem functioning
  • evenness
  • lakes
  • macrosystems
  • phytoplankton
  • richness
  • zooplankton

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Letter

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