Conservation implications of recent advances in biodiversity-functioning research

Peh, Kelvin S H
Lewis, Simon L
Biological Conservation
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Studies have shown that increasing diversity has a positive influence on many ecosystem functions and services, for example, biomass productivity. However, most diversity - functioning studies have derived their conclusions (1) from considering only random species assemblages, (2) from small spatial scales - often micro- and mesocosm experiments, (3) from studying merely a single trophic level, and (4) studies from a small number of biomes dominate. Critics argue that these studies provide little basis to evaluate the consequences for biodiversity loss in the real world. Here we re-consider the latest research focusing on each limitation in turn to highlight the possible lessons for real-world conservation from recent biodiversity - ecosystem function (BEF) research. Tentative general lessons from recent research include: (1) the need to urgently forestall human-induced extinction (i.e., non-random extinction) over large areas, in order to avert large negative functional consequences which may be more pronounced at larger scales and (2) preserve relatively intact communities because biotic interactions across the multi-trophic levels may have a synergistic contribution to the overall functioning of a system. However, considering the complexity of the community dynamics of natural systems, we recommend using natural systems - and understanding the basic physiological features and ecological roles of the species within them - because they implicitly include realistic extinction process, trophic structures and spatial - temporal scales as a useful way of increasing the relevance of future BEF studies to conservation.
Name of Journal: 
Biological Conservation
Resource Type: 
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Journal Issue/Article
Grassland Society of Southern Africa

The Grassland Society of Southern Africa (GSSA) is involved and concerned with the science and practice of range and pasture management. This broad field involves primarily the use and conservation of natural resources. It encompasses applied fields such as livestock production, wildlife management, nature conservation, water catchment management and range and mine-dump rehabilitation. The disciplines include, amongst others, ecology, botany zoology, range and pasture science, animal science, soil science and genetics. This collection includes journal articles from the African Journal of Range and Forage Science as well as related articles and reports from throughout the Southern African region.