Extinction and Ecosystem Function in the Marine Benthos

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Science  12 Nov 2004:
Vol. 306, Issue 5699, pp. 1177-1180
DOI: 10.1126/science.1103960

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Rapid changes in biodiversity are occurring globally, yet the ecological impacts of diversity loss are poorly understood. Here we use data from marine invertebrate communities to parameterize models that predict how extinctions will affect sediment bioturbation, a process vital to the persistence of aquatic communities. We show that species extinction is generally expected to reduce bioturbation, but the magnitude of reduction depends on how the functional traits of individual species covary with their risk of extinction. As a result, the particular cause of extinction and the order in which species are lost ultimately govern the ecosystem-level consequences of biodiversity loss.

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