Grand challenges in biodiversity-ecosystem functioning research in the era of science-policy platforms require explicit consideration of feedbacks

Mary I. O'Connor, Akira S. Mori, Andrew Gonzalez, Laura E. Dee, Michel Loreau, Meghan Avolio, Jarrett E.K. Byrnes, William Cheung, Jane Cowles, Adam T. Clark, Yann Hautier, Andrew Hector, Kimberly Komatsu, Tim Newbold, Charlotte L. Outhwaite, Peter B. Reich, Eric Seabloom, Laura Williams, Alexandra Wright, Forest Isbell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Feedbacks are an essential feature of resilient socio-economic systems, yet the feedbacks between biodiversity, ecosystem services and human wellbeing are not fully accounted for in global policy efforts that consider future scenarios for human activities and their consequences for nature. Failure to integrate feedbacks in our knowledge frameworks exacerbates uncertainty in future projections and potentially prevents us from realizing the full benefits of actions we can take to enhance sustainability. We identify six scientific research challenges that, if addressed, could allow future policy, conservation and monitoring efforts to quantitatively account for ecosystem and societal consequences of biodiversity change. Placing feedbacks prominently in our frameworks would lead to (i) coordinated observation of biodiversity change, ecosystem functions and human actions, (ii) joint experiment and observation programmes, (iii) more effective use of emerging technologies in biodiversity science and policy, and (iv) a more inclusive and integrated global community of biodiversity observers. To meet these challenges, we outline a five-point action plan for collaboration and connection among scientists and policymakers that emphasizes diversity, inclusion and open access. Efforts to protect biodiversity require the best possible scientific understanding of human activities, biodiversity trends, ecosystem functions and - critically - the feedbacks among them.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20210783
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1960
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the US National Science Foundation (NSF), Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) grant nos DEB-0620652, DEB-1234162 and DEB-1831944, LTER Network Communications Office grant no DEB-1545288, Long-Term Research in Environmental Biology (LTREB) grant nos DEB-1242531 and DEB-1753859 and Biological Integration Institutes grant no. NSF-DBI-2021898. M.L. was supported by the TULIP Laboratory of Excellence (grant no. ANR-10-LABX-41). A.G. is supported by the Liber Ero Chair in Biodiversity Conservation. F.I. is supported by a NSF CAREER award (DEB-1845334). Acknowledgements

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors.


  • biodiversity
  • ecosystem functioning
  • feedbacks
  • grand challenges
  • science-policy
  • socioecological systems


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