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Experimental climate change weakens the insurance effect of biodiversity

Journal article
Authors Johan Eklöf
Christian Alsterberg
Jonathan N. Havenhand
Kristina Sundbäck
Hannah L. Wood
Lars Gamfeldt
Published in Ecology Letters
Volume 15
Issue 8
Pages 864-872
ISSN 1461-023X
Publication year 2012
Published at Linnaeus Centre for Marine Evolutionary Biology (CEMEB)
Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, Tjärnö Marine Biological Laboratory
Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences
Pages 864-872
Language en
Keywords Food web, Gammarus locusta, Littorina littorea, marine, mesograzer, metabolic theory of ecology, ocean acidification, ecosystem function, trophic cascades, prey, diversity, carbonic-acid, community, resilience, vegetation, consumer, consequences, naughton sj, 1977, american naturalist, v111, p515
Subject categories Biological Sciences


Ecosystems are simultaneously affected by biodiversity loss and climate change, but we know little about how these factors interact. We predicted that climate warming and CO 2-enrichment should strengthen trophic cascades by reducing the relative efficiency of predation-resistant herbivores, if herbivore consumption rate trades off with predation resistance. This weakens the insurance effect of herbivore diversity. We tested this prediction using experimental ocean warming and acidification in seagrass mesocosms. Meta-analyses of published experiments first indicated that consumption rate trades off with predation resistance. The experiment then showed that three common herbivores together controlled macroalgae and facilitated seagrass dominance, regardless of climate change. When the predation-vulnerable herbivore was excluded in normal conditions, the two resistant herbivores maintained top-down control. Under warming, however, increased algal growth outstripped control by herbivores and the system became algal-dominated. Consequently, climate change can reduce the relative efficiency of resistant herbivores and weaken the insurance effect of biodiversity.

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