Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Consequences of realistic patterns of biodiversity loss: an experimental test from the intertidal zone

Meaghan K. Walker A B and Ross M. Thompson A B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A School of Biological Sciences and Australian Centre for Biodiversity, Monash University, Clayton, Melbourne, Vic. 3800, Australia.

B Corresponding author. Email: mwalker@ecowsie.com.au or: ross.thompson@sci.monash.edu.au

Marine and Freshwater Research 61(9) 1015-1022 https://doi.org/10.1071/MF09244
Submitted: 30 September 2009  Accepted: 5 March 2010   Published: 23 September 2010

Abstract

Studies of the effects of biodiversity on ecosystem function (BDEF) have largely found positive, saturating relationships. However, these studies have been criticised for generating species loss randomly when real extinctions are strongly biased toward rare species. We investigated BDEF relationships in the mollusc fauna of an intertidal rock platform at Griffiths Point, San Remo, south-east Victoria, Australia. Field surveys found that areas with the lowest function (mollusc biomass) were associated with lowest diversity. Excluding individual species from experimental enclosures affected function differentially depending on species’ initial abundance. Rectangular enclosures were attached to the rock platform enabling molluscs to be enclosed while allowing sea water to flow through. Removal of the most abundant species had a positive effect on mollusc biomass, suggesting an inhibition of the other species in the community. In the absence of the most common species, the less abundant species were more productive in combination than when present singly. Taken collectively, these results provide evidence for a relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem function which is a product of both diversity per se and species identity.

Keywords: biodiversity, ecosystem function, extinction, marine, productivity, rare species, rarity.


Acknowledgements

The authors thank two anonymous referees for their comments. The Faculty of Science workshop, Monash University provided advice on cage construction and attachment. Bruce Weir, Damien McMaster, Deborah Walker, Shaun Costin and Colin Walker provided logistic support and field advice. This work was carried out under Monash University’s Wildlife Research Permit.


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