Biodiversity and Ecosystem Function

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Science  13 Jan 2012:
Vol. 335, Issue 6065, pp. 174-175
DOI: 10.1126/science.1217245

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How is the biodiversity within an ecosystem related to the ecosystem's function? Quantifying and understanding this relationship—the biodiversity-ecosystem function (BEF) (1)—is important because socio-economic development is almost always accompanied by the loss of natural habitat and species (2). Short-term economic gains may thus trump longer-term benefits for human society, creating vulnerabilities that could be avoided or corrected with enough knowledge about the role of biodiversity. Erosion of biodiversity at local and regional scales may also reduce resilience at larger spatial scales as a result of degradation of ecosystem function (3). On page 214 of this issue, Maestre et al. (4) report an important step toward extending our understanding of BEF to globally important ecosystems.