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Research article2017Peer reviewedOpen access

Habitat diversity and ecosystem multifunctionality-The importance of direct and indirect effects

Alsterberg, Christian; Roger, Fabian; Sundback, Kristina; Juhanson, Jaanis; Hulth, Stefan; Hallin, Sara; Gamfeldt, Lars


Ecosystems worldwide are facing habitat homogenization due to human activities. Although it is commonly proposed that such habitat homogenization can have negative repercussions for ecosystem functioning, this question has yet to receive explicit scientific attention. We expand on the framework for evaluating the functional consequences of bio-diversity loss by scaling up from the level of species to the level of the entire habitats. Just as species diversity generally fosters ecosystem functioning through positive interspecies interactions, we hypothesize that different habitats within ecosystems can facilitate each other through structural complementarity and through exchange of material and energy across habitats. We show that experimental ecosystems comprised of a diversity of habitats show higher levels of multiple ecosystem functions than ecosystems with low habitat diversity. Our results demonstrate that the effect of habitat diversity on multifunctionality varies with season; it has direct effects on ecosystem functioning in summer and indirect effects, via changes in species diversity, in autumn, but no effect in spring. We propose that joint consideration of habitat diversity and species diversity will prove valuable for both environmental management and basic research.

Published in

Science Advances
2017, Volume: 3, number: 2, pages: 1-9