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Marine biodiversity and ecosystem function relationships: The potential for practical monitoring applications

Strong, James Asa; Andonegi, Eider; Bizsel, Kemal Can; Danovaro, Roberto; Elliott, Mike; Franco, Anita; Garces, Esther; Little, Sally; Mazik, Krysia; Moncheva, Snejana; Papadopoulou, Nadia; Patrício, Joana; Queirós, Ana M.; Smith, Chris; Stefanova, Kremena; Solaun, Oihana


James Asa Strong

Eider Andonegi

Kemal Can Bizsel

Roberto Danovaro

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Professor Mike Elliott
Emeritus Professor of Estuarine and Coastal Sciences/ Research Professor, Institute of Estuarine and Coastal Studies

Anita Franco

Esther Garces

Sally Little

Snejana Moncheva

Nadia Papadopoulou

Joana Patrício

Ana M. Queirós

Chris Smith

Kremena Stefanova

Oihana Solaun


© 2015 Elsevier Ltd. There is an increasing demand for environmental assessments of the marine environment to include ecosystem function. However, existing schemes are predominantly based on taxonomic (i.e. structural) measures of biodiversity. Biodiversity and Ecosystem Function (BEF) relationships are suggested to provide a mechanism for converting taxonomic information into surrogates of ecosystem function. This review assesses the evidence for marine BEF relationships and their potential to be used in practical monitoring applications (i.e. operationalized).Five key requirements were identified for the practical application of BEF relationships: (1) a complete understanding of strength, direction and prevalence of marine BEF relationships, (2) an understanding of which biological components are influential within specific BEF relationships, (3) the biodiversity of the selected biological components can be measured easily, (4) the ecological mechanisms that are the most important for generating marine BEF relationships, i.e. identity effects or complementarity, are known and (5) the proportion of the overall functional variance is explained by biodiversity, and hence BEF relationships, has been established.Numerous positive and some negative BEF relationships were found within the literature, although many reproduced poorly the natural species richness, trophic structures or multiple functions of real ecosystems (requirement 1). Null relationships were also reported. The consistency of the positive and negative relationships was often low that compromised the ability to generalize BEF relationships and confident application of BEF within marine monitoring. Equally, some biological components and functions have received little or no investigation.Expert judgement was used to attribute biological components using spatial extent, presence and functional rate criteria (requirement 2). This approach highlighted the main biological components contributing the most to specific ecosystem functions, and that many of the particularly influential components were found to have received the least amount of research attention.The need for biodiversity to be measureable (requirement 3) is possible for most biological components although difficult within the functionally important microbes. Identity effects underpinned most marine BEF relationships (requirement 4). As such, processes that translated structural biodiversity measures into functional diversity were found to generate better BEF relationships.The analysis of the contribution made by biodiversity, over abiotic influences, to the total expression of a particular ecosystem function was rarely measured or considered (requirement 5). Hence it is not possible to determine the overall importance of BEF relationships within the total ecosystem functioning observed. In the few studies where abiotic factors had been considered, it was clear that these modified BEF relationships and have their own direct influence on functional rate.Based on the five requirements, the information required for immediate 'operationalization' of BEF relationships within marine functional monitoring is lacking. However, the concept of BEF inclusion within practical monitoring applications, supported by ecological modelling, shows promise for providing surrogate indicators of functioning.


Strong, J. A., Andonegi, E., Bizsel, K. C., Danovaro, R., Elliott, M., Franco, A., …Solaun, O. (2015). Marine biodiversity and ecosystem function relationships: The potential for practical monitoring applications. Estuarine, coastal and shelf science, 161, 46-64.

Acceptance Date Apr 25, 2015
Online Publication Date May 6, 2015
Publication Date Aug 5, 2015
Deposit Date Feb 7, 2018
Publicly Available Date Mar 29, 2018
Journal Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science
Print ISSN 0272-7714
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 161
Pages 46-64
Keywords Aquatic Science; Oceanography
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This article is maintained by: Elsevier; Article Title: Marine biodiversity and ecosystem function relationships: The potential for practical monitoring applications; Journal Title: Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science; CrossRef DOI link to publisher maintained version:; Content Type: article; Copyright: Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


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