Biodiversity and ecosystem function are often correlated, but there are multiple hypotheses about the mechanisms underlying this relationship. Ecosystem functions such as primary or secondary production may be maximized by species richness, evenness in species abundances, or the presence or dominance of species with certain traits. Here, we combine surveys of natural fish communities (conducted in July and August 2016) with morphological trait data to examine relationships between biodiversity and ecosystem function (quantified as fish community biomass) across 14 subtidal eelgrass meadows in the Northeast Pacific (54°N, 130°W). We employ both taxonomic and functional trait measures of diversity to investigate whether ecosystem function is best predicted by species diversity (complementarity hypothesis) or by the presence or dominance of species with particular trait values (selection or dominance hypotheses). After controlling for environmental variation, we find that fish community biomass is maximized when taxonomic richness and functional evenness are low, and in communities dominated by species with particular trait values, specifically those associated with benthic habitats and prey capture. While previous work on fish communities has found that species richness is often positively correlated with ecosystem function, our results instead highlight the capacity for regionally prevalent and locally dominant species to drive ecosystem function in moderately diverse communities. We discuss these alternate links between community composition and ecosystem function and consider their divergent implications for ecosystem valuation and conservation prioritization.
- community ecology
- ecosystem function
- functional diversity
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Nature and Landscape Conservation