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Lifting the veil: richness measurements fail to detect systematic biodiversity change over three decades

Larsen, Stefano, Chase, Jonathan M., Durance, Isabelle and Ormerod, Steve J. 2018. Lifting the veil: richness measurements fail to detect systematic biodiversity change over three decades. Ecology 99 (6) , pp. 1316-1326. 10.1002/ecy.2213

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While there is widespread recognition of human involvement in biodiversity loss globally, at smaller spatial extents, the effects are less clear. One reason is that local effects are obscured by the use of summary biodiversity variables, such as species richness, that provide only limited insight into complex biodiversity change. Here, we use 30 yr of invertebrate data from a metacommunity of 10 streams in Wales, UK, combined with regional surveys, to examine temporal changes in multiple biodiversity measures at local, metacommunity, and regional scales. There was no change in taxonomic or functional a-diversity and spatial b-diversity metrics at any scale over the 30-yr time series, suggesting a relative stasis in the system and no evidence for on-going homogenization. However, temporal changes in mean species composition were evident. Two independent approaches to estimate species niche breadth showed that compositional changes were associated with a systematic decline in mean community specialization. Estimates of species-specific local extinction and immigration probabilities suggested that this decline was linked to lower recolonization rates of specialists, rather than greater local extinction rates. Our results reveal the need for caution in implying stasis from patterns in a-diversity and spatial b-diversity measures that might mask non-random biodiversity changes over time. We also show how different but complementary approaches to estimate niche breadth and functional distinctness of species can reveal long-term trends in community homogenization likely to be important to conservation and ecosystem function.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Biosciences
Water Research Institute (WATER)
Publisher: Ecological Society of America
ISSN: 0012-9658
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 8 March 2018
Date of Acceptance: 2 March 2018
Last Modified: 19 Nov 2020 10:15

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