Functional Diversity and Composting

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Science  05 Nov 2004:
Vol. 306, Issue 5698, pp. 937
DOI: 10.1126/science.306.5698.937h

The relation between species diversity and ecosystem functioning has been keenly debated. As well as the absolute number and relative abundance of species, the functional dissimilarity of the species in a community may influence the overall functioning of an ecosystem. Heemsbergen et al. (p. 1019) filled tubes with soil, topped them with alder leaves, and added combinations of different numbers of species of annelids, isopods, and millipedes. They then tracked three “ecosystem function” variables over subsequent weeks. The number of species per se did not determine assemblage performance, but functional groups were the key to performance: The more dissimilar in function its members, the better the assemblage at decomposing the leaves.

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