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Does ecological redundancy maintain functioning of marine benthos on centennial to millennial time scales?

Frid, Chris L. J.; Caswell, Bryony A.


Chris L. J. Frid


Predicting the ability of the biosphere to continue to deliver ecosystem services in the face of biodiversity loss and environmental change is a major challenge. The results of short‐term and small‐scale experimental studies are both equivocal and difficult to extrapolate from. In this study we use data on benthic palaeocommunities covering 4,000,000 years (in the Late Jurassic when temperate coastal seas in NW Europe experienced fluctuations in oxygenation). The biological traits associated with each species in the palaeocommunities were combined to index the delivery of ecological functions. Five ecosystem functions were examined: food for large mobile predators, biogenic habitat provision, nutrient recycling/regeneration, inorganic carbon sequestration and food‐web dynamics. In modern systems these ecological functions underpin ecosystem services that are important for human well‐being. Our results show that the supply of food for higher predators was remarkably constant during the 4,000,000 years, suggesting that redundancy amongst species in the assemblage drives the biodiversity–ecosystem function (BEF) relationship. By contrast, the provision of biogenic habitat varied with the occurrence of a relatively few taxa, a pattern consistent with a rivet type model of BEF. For nutrient regeneration, carbon sequestration and food‐web dynamics the patterns were complex and suggestive of an idiosyncratic model of BEF. To our knowledge this is the first study to quantify ecological functioning through deep time and demonstrates the utility of this approach to understanding long‐term patterns of BEF in both ancient and contemporary marine ecosystems. The delivery of all five ecological functions studied became increasingly variable as the regional climate became drier, thus modifying the supply of terrigenous nutrient inputs.


Frid, C. L. J., & Caswell, B. A. (2016). Does ecological redundancy maintain functioning of marine benthos on centennial to millennial time scales?. Marine Ecology, 37(2), 392-410.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 16, 2015
Online Publication Date Feb 25, 2016
Publication Date Apr 1, 2016
Deposit Date Aug 6, 2018
Journal Marine Ecology
Print ISSN 0173-9565
Electronic ISSN 1439-0485
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 37
Issue 2
Pages 392-410
Keywords Carbon sequestration; Ecosystem services; Food‐web dynamics; Hypoxia; Kimmeridge Clay Formation; Nutrient regeneration; Palaeoecology
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