Testing the effects of diversity on ecosystem multifunctionality using a multivariate model

Áine Dooley, Forest Isbell, Laura Kirwan, John Connolly, John A. Finn, Caroline Brophy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


Most ecosystems provide multiple services, thus the impact of biodiversity losses on ecosystem functions may be considerably underestimated by studies that only address single functions. We propose a multivariate modelling framework for quantifying the relationship between biodiversity and multiple ecosystem functions (multifunctionality). Our framework consolidates the strengths of previous approaches to analysing ecosystem multifunctionality and contributes several advances. It simultaneously assesses the drivers of multifunctionality, such as species relative abundances, richness, evenness and other manipulated treatments. It also tests the relative importance of these drivers across functions, incorporates correlations among functions and identifies conditions where all functions perform well and where trade-offs occur among functions. We illustrate our framework using data from three ecosystem functions (sown biomass, weed suppression and nitrogen yield) in a four-species grassland experiment. We found high variability in performance across the functions in monocultures, but as community diversity increased, performance increased and variability across functions decreased.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1242-1251
Number of pages10
JournalEcology Letters
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd/CNRS.


  • Biodiversity
  • Diversity-Interactions model
  • Ecosystem function
  • Evenness
  • Multifunctionality
  • Multivariate
  • Species interaction
  • Species richness
  • Trade-offs


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