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Is long-term ecological functioning stable: The case of the marine benthos?
Frid, C.L.J.; Caswell, B.A. (2015). Is long-term ecological functioning stable: The case of the marine benthos? J. Sea Res. 98: 15-23.
In: Journal of Sea Research. Elsevier/Netherlands Institute for Sea Research: Amsterdam; Den Burg. ISSN 1385-1101, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Author keywords
    Dove Time Series; Ecosystem Services; Kimmeridge Clay Formation; Jurassic; Palaeoecology; Biological Traits Analysis

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  • Frid, C.L.J., more
  • Caswell, B.A.

    It is widely acknowledged that human activities are contributing to substantial biodiversity loss and that this threatens ecological processes underpinning human exploitation of ‘ecosystem services’ (defined by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment as ‘the benefits people obtain from ecosystems’). In the present study we consider three ‘intermediate ecosystem services’ in both contemporary and ancient marine systems and although ‘ecosystem services’ per se did not exist in the Jurassic our study seeks to consider the future provision of these services and so the term is retained. We consider the temporal patterns in benthic marine ecosystems: (1) spanning four decades at two offshore stations in the North Sea, UK and (2) over millennial scales in Late Jurassic UK palaeocommunities. Biological traits analysis is used to link changes in taxonomic composition to variations in ecological functioning and the potential supply of three ‘intermediate’ ecosystem services: the ability to provide food to fish and other predators, benthic nutrient regeneration and carbon cycling. We examine whether changes in taxonomic composition drive temporal variation in functioning, whether this variation increases over time and the extent to which species turnover is comparable in contemporary and ancient systems. Taxonomic variability was of a similar magnitude in all three systems and there was evidence for changes in functioning linked to changes in several (key or rivet) taxa. During other periods resilience maintained functioning in the face of taxonomic change. These results suggest that in these benthic systems the Biodiversity–Ecosystem Functioning relationship is idiosyncratic, but a degree of temporal stability in functioning is maintained such that the ecosystem services they underpin would also be stable during decadal and longer-term changes.

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