Marine biodiversity and ecosystem services: An elusive link

Carlos Duarte*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

227 Scopus citations


Efforts to test the hypothesised positive link between ecosystem services and functions and biodiversity are increasing in order to forecast the consequences of the present erosion of biodiversity on ecosystem functions and to provide an additional basis for the conservation of biodiversity. These efforts have been, however, modest in marine ecosystems. An examination of seagrass communities, which are simple assemblages with a limited membership of about 50 species worldwide and < 12 species in any one community, provides, however, strong evidence for the existence of such positive link between species richness and ecosystem functions. Ecosystem functions are, however, dependent on the particular membership of the community, rather that its number, for the functions are species-specific properties. Yet evidence, is provided, that an increasing species richness should be, on average, linked to an increase in the functional repertoire present in the community, will lead to a more efficient use of resources and a greater capacity to ensure the sustainability of ecosystem functions under disturbance or ecosystem change. Closer examination indicates that the functional variability of mixed-species seagrass assemblages is correlated to the variability in species size, whereas species of similar size tend to show similar functional capacities and, therefore, a greater degree of functional redundancy. In addition, the demonstration of positive interactions in seagrass communities, which are also dependent on the presence of engineering species in the community that facilitate the growth of other species, provides increasing grounds to expect an enhanced functional performance of mixed communities over that expected from a simple additive contribution of the community members. Multispecific communities also hold, within the functional repertoire they contain, many unrealised functional potentials that may prove instrumental to ensure the sustainability of ecosystem functions in the presence of disturbance or a changing environment. The arguments offered, illustrated for the comparatively simple seagrass communities, provide strong reasons to expect a strong - if difficult to test experimentally - positive relationship between species diversity and the functions of marine ecosystems and, thereby, the services they yield to humanity. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science B.V.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)117-131
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jul 30 2000


  • Ecosystem services
  • Marine ecosystems
  • Seagrass

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science


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