Biotic homogenization can decrease landscape-scale forest multifunctionality

van der Plas PNAS 2016.jpg

Many experiments have shown that local biodiversity loss impairs the ability of ecosystems to maintain multiple ecosystem functions at high levels (multifunctionality). In contrast, the role of biodiversity in driving ecosystem multifunctionality at landscape scales remains unresolved. We used a comprehensive pan-European dataset, including 16 ecosystem functions measured in 209 forest plots across six European countries, and performed simulations to investigate how local plot-scale richness of tree species (α-diversity) and their turnover between plots (β-diversity) are related to landscape-scale multifunctionality. After accounting for variation in environmental conditions, we found that relationships between α-diversity and landscape-scale multifunctionality varied from positive to negative depending on the multifunctionality metric used. In contrast, when significant, relationships between β-diversity and landscape-scale multifunctionality were always positive, because a high spatial turnover in species composition was closely related to a high spatial turnover in functions that were supported at high levels. Our findings have major implications for forest management and indicate that biotic homogenization can have previously unrecognized and negative consequences for large-scale ecosystem multifunctionality.

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