Size-dependent loss of aboveground animals differentially affects grassland ecosystem coupling and functions
© 2018, The Author(s). Increasing evidence suggests that community-level responses to human-induced biodiversity loss start with a decrease of interactions among communities and between them and their abiotic environment. The structural and functional consequences of such interaction losses are poorly understood and have rarely been tested in real-world systems. Here, we analysed how 5 years of progressive, size-selective exclusion of large, medium, and small vertebrates and invertebrates—a realistic scenario of human-induced defaunation—impacts the strength of relationships between above- and belowground communities and their abiotic environment (hereafter ecosystem coupling) and how this relates to ecosystem functionality in grasslands. Exclusion of all vertebrates results in the greatest level of ecosystem coupling, while the additional loss of invertebrates leads to poorly coupled ecosystems. Consumer-driven changes in ecosystem functionality are positively related to changes in ecosystem coupling. Our results highlight the importance of invertebrate communities for maintaining ecological coupling and functioning in an increasingly defaunated world.
van der Putten, W.,
Size-dependent loss of aboveground animals differentially affects grassland ecosystem coupling and functions.
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