BACKGROUND The availability of nitrogen (N) to plants and microbes has a major influence on the structure and function of ecosystems. Because N is an essential component of plant proteins, low N availability constrains the growth of plants and herbivores. To increase N availability, humans apply large amounts of fertilizer to agricultural systems. Losses from these systems, combined with atmospheric deposition of fossil fuel combustion products, introduce copious quantities of reactive N into ecosystems. The negative consequences of these anthropogenic N inputs—such as ecosystem eutrophication and reductions in terrestrial and aquatic biodiversity—are well documented. Yet although N availability is increasing in many locations, reactive N inputs are not evenly distributed globally. Furthermore, experiments and theory also suggest that global change factors such as elevated atmospheric CO 2 , rising temperatures, and altered precipitation and disturbance regimes can reduce the availability of N to plants and microbes in many terrestrial ecosystems. This can occur through increases in biotic demand for N or reductions in its supply to organisms. Reductions in N availability can be observed via several metrics, including lowered nitrogen concentrations ([N]) and isotope ratios (δ 15 N) in plant tissue, reduced rates of N mineralization, and reduced terrestrial Nmore »
Linking Terrestrial and Aquatic Biodiversity to Ecosystem Function Across Scales, Trophic Levels, and Realms
Global declines in biodiversity have the potential to affect ecosystem function, and vice versa, in both terrestrial and aquatic ecological realms. While many studies have considered biodiversity-ecosystem function (BEF) relationships at local scales within single realms, there is a critical need for more studies examining BEF linkages among ecological realms, across scales, and across trophic levels. We present a framework linking abiotic attributes, productivity, and biodiversity across terrestrial and inland aquatic realms. We review examples of the major ways that BEF linkages form across realms–cross-system subsidies, ecosystem engineering, and hydrology. We then formulate testable hypotheses about the relative strength of these connections across spatial scales, realms, and trophic levels. While some studies have addressed these hypotheses individually, to holistically understand and predict the impact of biodiversity loss on ecosystem function, researchers need to move beyond local and simplified systems and explicitly investigate cross-realm and trophic interactions and large-scale patterns and processes. Recent advances in computational power, data synthesis, and geographic information science can facilitate studies spanning multiple ecological realms that will lead to a more comprehensive understanding of BEF connections.
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- Frontiers in Environmental Science
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
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