, Volume 653, Issue 1, pp 65-78
Date: 11 Jul 2010

Diversity and community biomass depend on dispersal and disturbance in microalgal communities

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The evidence for species diversity effects on ecosystem functions is mainly based on studies not explicitly addressing local or regional processes regulating coexistence or the importance of community structure in terms of species evenness. In experimental communities of marine benthic microalgae, we altered the successional stages and thus the strength of local species interactions by manipulating rates of dispersal and disturbance. The treatments altered realized species richness, evenness and community biomass. For species richness, dispersal mattered only at high disturbance rates; when opening new space, dispersal led to maximized richness at intermediate dispersal rates. Evenness, in contrast, decreased with dispersal at low or no disturbance, i.e. at late successional stages. Community biomass showed a non-linear hump-shaped response to increasing dispersal at all disturbance levels. We found a positive correlation between richness and biomass at early succession, and a strong negative correlation between evenness and biomass at late succession. In early succession both community biomass and richness depend directly on dispersal from the regional pool, whereas the late successional pattern shows that if interactions allow the most productive species to become dominant, diverting resources from this species (i.e. higher evenness) reduces production. Our study emphasizes the difference in biodiversity–function relationships over time, as different mechanisms contribute to the regulation of richness and evenness in early and late successional stages.

Guest editors: L. Naselli-Flores & G. Rossetti / Fifty years after the “Homage to Santa Rosalia”: Old and new paradigms on biodiversity in aquatic ecosystems