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A large body of research shows that biodiversity loss can reduce ecosystem functioning. However, much of the evidence for this relationship is drawn from biodiversity–ecosystem functioning experiments in which biodiversity loss is simulated by randomly assembling communities of varying species diversity, and ecosystem functions are measured. This random assembly has led some ecologists to question the relevance of biodiversity experiments to real-world ecosystems, where community assembly or disassembly may be non-random and influenced by external drivers, such as climate, soil conditions or land use. Here, we compare data from real-world grassland plant communities with data from two of the largest and longest-running grassland biodiversity experiments (the Jena Experiment in Germany and BioDIV in the United States) in terms of their taxonomic, functional and phylogenetic diversity and functional-trait composition. We found that plant communities of biodiversity experiments cover almost all of the multivariate variation of the real-world communities, while also containing community types that are not currently observed in the real world. Moreover, they have greater variance in their compositional features than their real-world counterparts. We then re-analysed a subset of experimental data that included only ecologically realistic communities (that is, those comparable to real-world communities). For 10 out of 12more »
Biodiversity-ecosystem functioning (BEF) research grew rapidly following concerns that biodiversity loss would negatively affect ecosystem functions and the ecosystem services they underpin. However, despite evidence that biodiversity strongly affects ecosystem functioning, the influence of BEF research upon policy and the management of ‘real-world’ ecosystems, i.e., semi-natural habitats and agroecosystems, has been limited. Here, we address this issue by classifying BEF research into three clusters based on the degree of human control over species composition and the spatial scale, in terms of grain, of the study, and discussing how the research of each cluster is best suited to inform particular fields of ecosystem management. Research in the first cluster, small-grain highly controlled studies, is best able to provide general insights into mechanisms and to inform the management of species-poor and highly managed systems such as croplands, plantations, and the restoration of heavily degraded ecosystems. Research from the second cluster, small-grain observational studies, and species removal and addition studies, may allow for direct predictions of the impacts of species loss in specific semi-natural ecosystems. Research in the third cluster, large-grain uncontrolled studies, may best inform landscape-scale management and national-scale policy. We discuss barriers to transfer within each cluster and suggest how newmore »