Beyond Biodiversity: A Scale-dependent Framework for Predicting Changes in Ecosystem Functions and services from Anthropogenic Threats

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Principal Investigator: 
Kristin Powell, SESYNC

Increasing demands on natural resources have spurred extremely high rates of biodiversity loss at local, regional, and global scales. A major focus of environmental science is to investigate how this biodiversity loss translates into the loss of ecosystem functions and ecosystem services that benefit human welfare and provide economic and societal value. Less is known, however, about how biodiversity loss causes declines in ecosystem functions and services at larger spatial scales at which policy makers are often making conservation decisions. It is currently unclear how to ‘scale up’ experimental and observational studies on biodiversity to understand the social and economic value of preserving larger habitat areas. In addition, different anthropogenic threats, such as climate change, habitat fragmentation, and invasive species, often cause non-random extinction of species that will alter ecosystem functions and services differently depending on the size of the habitat area conserved.

This project aims to synthesize community and ecosystem ecology with economics in order to bridge gaps between the relationships of anthropogenic threats, ecosystem functions and services, habitat size, and human welfare, as well as provide policy decision-makers with tools for more practical management of natural resources. It will develop predictive frameworks that will be initially tested computationally using spatially-explicit datasets of terrestrial plants, and data syntheses will quantify how different anthropogenic threats affect biodiversity that maintains ecosystem processes that society values.

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