Arctic and Alpine Biodiversity: Patterns, Causes and Ecosystem Consequences

Volume 113 of the series Ecological Studies pp 239-254

Ecosystem Consequences of Microbial Diversity and Community Structure

  • J. SchimelAffiliated withInstitute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska

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Biodiversity has become a major theme in ecological research and environmental policy (Schulze and Mooney 1993). This concern has arisen because people value diversity both for its own sake and because diversity may control important ecosystem services (food, fiber, animal production, tourism). While the first rationale for concern over biodiversity should apply to microbes, they lack charisma. I therefore doubt that arguments about microbial biodiversity for its own sake will carry much weight for most people, and our concerns with the issue will rest primarily on the implications of their diversity for ecosystem function. While several papers have discussed the effect of functional diversity on ecosystem processes (Meyer 1993; Beare et al. 1994), they basically conclude that microbes carry out many processes that are important to ecosystem function and that their interactions are complex. Formulating meaningful conclusions about the importance of diversity within functional groups, however, has been difficult.