November 12, 2008
Titled “Complementarity in marine biodiversity manipulations: Reconciling divergent evidence from field and mesocosm experiments”, the paper contends that short-term experiments detect only a subset of possible mechanisms that operate in the field over the longer term because they lack sufficient environmental heterogeneity to allow expression of niche differences. The study suggests that short-term experiments are not lengthy enough to capture population-level responses. It is likely that many published experiments underestimate the strength of diversity on ecosystem processes in natural ecosystems.
“Biodiversity is changing on a global scale due to factors such as habitat destruction by humans,” said Bracken. “This study allowed us to explore the consequences of biodiversity change using seaweed species richness. The results are exciting because as our experiments became more realistic, and were conducted for a longer time, the effects of biodiversity on production were stronger.”
Until recently, the ability of scientists and researchers to use existing data to assess variation in the strength of diversity effects has been limited by differences in approaches specific to particular study systems. Many studies of terrestrial plant species richness have found diversity effects, but this pattern has been less general in marine systems where many studies have found little or no effects.
The article featured in PNAS asserts that the effect of seaweed species richness on seaweed biomass differed dramatically between short- and long-term field experiments. The results of the study support the idea that experimental duration influences the strength of the diversity effect. In conclusion, researchers suggest that short-term assembly experiments and longer-term experiments in natural marine systems in combination might allow one to better clarify the mechanisms that do and do not operate to link diversity and function.
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