The extent of functional redundancy changes as species’ roles shift in different environments

Author(s): Fetzer, I., Johst, K., Schäwe, R., Banitz, T., Harms, H., Chatzinotas, H.
In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences PNAS online, November 17, 2015, doi:10.1073/pnas.1505587112
Year: 2015
Type: Journal / article
Full reference: Fetzer, I., K. Johst, R. Schawea, T. Banitz, H. Harms, A. Chatzinotas. 2015. The extent of functional redundancy changes as species’ roles shift in different environments. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 112: 14888–14893


Assessing the ecological impacts of environmental change requires knowledge of the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. The exact nature of this relationship can differ considerably between ecosystems, with consequences for the efficacy of species diversity as a buffer against environmental change. Using a microbial model system, we show that the relationship can vary depending on environmental conditions. Shapes suggesting functional redundancy in one environment can change, suggesting functional differences in another environment. We find that this change is due to shifting species roles and interactions. Species that are functionally redundant in one environment may become pivotal in another. Thus, caution is advised in drawing conclusions about functional redundancy based on a single environmental situation. It also implies that species richness is important because it provides a pool of species with potentially relevant traits. These species may turn out to be essential performers or partners in new interspecific interactions after environmental change. Therefore, our results challenge the generality of functional redundancy.

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