Biodiversity at multiple trophic levels is needed for ecosystem multifunctionality

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Many experiments have shown that loss of biodiversity reduces the capacity of ecosystems to provide the multiple services on which humans depend. However, experiments necessarily simplify the complexity of natural ecosystems and will normally control for other important drivers of ecosystem functioning, such as the environment or land use. In addition, existing studies typically focus on the diversity of single trophic groups, neglecting the fact that biodiversity loss occurs across many taxa and that the functional effects of any trophic group may depend on the abundance and diversity of others. Here we report analysis of the relationships between the species richness and abundance of nine trophic groups, including 4,600 above- and below-ground taxa, and 14 ecosystem services and functions and with their simultaneous provision (or multifunctionality) in 150 grasslands. We show that high species richness in multiple trophic groups (multitrophic richness) had stronger positive effects on ecosystem services than richness in any individual trophic group; this includes plant species richness, the most widely used measure of biodiversity. On average, three trophic groups influenced each ecosystem service, with each trophic group influencing at least one service. Multitrophic richness was particularly beneficial for 'regulating' and 'cultural' services, and for multifunctionality, whereas a change in the total abundance of species or biomass in multiple trophic groups (the multitrophic abundance) positively affected supporting services. Multitrophic richness and abundance drove ecosystem functioning as strongly as abiotic conditions and land-use intensity, extending previous experimental results to real-world ecosystems. Primary producers, herbivorous insects and microbial decomposers seem to be particularly important drivers of ecosystem functioning, as shown by the strong and frequent positive associations of their richness or abundance with multiple ecosystem services. Our results show that multitrophic richness and abundance support ecosystem functioning, and demonstrate that a focus on single groups has led to researchers to greatly underestimate the functional importance of biodiversity.


  • Santiago Soliveres
  • Fons Van Der Plas
  • Peter Manning
  • Daniel Prati
  • Martin M. Gossner
  • Swen C. Renner
  • Fabian Alt
  • Hartmut Arndt
  • Vanessa Baumgartner
  • Julia Binkenstein
  • Stefan Blaser
  • Nico Blüthgen
  • Steffen Boch
  • Stefan Böhm
  • Carmen Börschig
  • Francois Buscot
  • Tim Diekötter
  • Johannes Heinze
  • Norbert Hölzel
  • Kirsten Jung
  • Valentin H. Klaus
  • Till Kleinebecker
  • Sandra Klemmer
  • Jochen Krauss
  • Markus Lange
  • E. Kathryn Morris
  • Jörg Müller
  • Yvonne Oelmann
  • Jörg Overmann
  • Esther Pašalić
  • Matthias C. Rillig
  • H. Martin Schaefer
  • Michael Schloter
  • Barbara Schmitt
  • Ingo Schöning
  • Marion Schrumpf
  • Johannes Sikorski
  • Stephanie A. Socher
  • Emily F. Solly
  • Ilja Sonnemann
  • Elisabeth Sorkau
  • Juliane Steckel
  • Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter
  • Barbara Stempfhuber
  • Marco Tschapka
  • Manfred Türke
  • Paul C. Venter
  • Christiane N. Weiner
  • Wolfgang W. Weisser
  • Michael Werner
  • Catrin Westphal
  • Wolfgang Wilcke
  • Volkmar Wolters
  • Tesfaye Wubet
  • Susanne Wurst
  • Markus Fischer
  • Eric Allan
Enheter & grupper
Externa organisationer
  • Leibniz Institute DSMZ-German Collection of Microorganisms and Cell Cultures
  • Technical University of Darmstadt
  • University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna
  • German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv)
  • University of Salzburg
  • University of Bern
  • Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre
  • Friedrich Schiller University Jena
  • Technical University of Munich
  • Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
  • University of Tübingen
  • University of Cologne
  • Albert-Ludwigs University Freiburg
  • University of Göttingen
  • Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research
  • University of Kiel
  • University of Potsdam
  • Berlin-Brandenburg Institute of Advanced Biodiversity Research
  • University of Münster
  • University of Ulm
  • Julius Maximilian University of Würzburg
  • Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry
  • Xavier University
  • Free University of Berlin
  • Helmholtz Zentrum München
  • Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research
  • Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
  • Leipzig University
  • Karlsruhe Institute of Technology
  • Justus Liebig University Giessen

Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ) – OBLIGATORISK

  • Ekologi
  • Miljövetenskap
Sidor (från-till)456-459
Antal sidor4
StatusPublished - 2016 aug 17
Peer review utfördJa