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Vol. 95, No. xx, 20
14; Page: 153163

Modeled diversity effects on microbial ecosystem functions of primary production, nutrient uptake, and remineralization

Nicole L. Goebel, Christopher A. Edwards, Michael J. Follows, and Jonathan P. Zehr

Institute of Marine Sciences, University of California, 1156 High Street, Santa Cruz, California 95064 USA.


Ecosystem-wide primary productivity generally increases with primary producer diversity, emphasizing the importance of diversity for ecosystem function. However, most studies that demonstrate this positive relationship have focused on terrestrial and aquatic benthic systems, with little attention to the diverse marine pelagic primary producers that play an important role in regulating global climate. Here we show how phytoplankton biodiversity enhances overall marine ecosystem primary productivity and other ecosystem functions using a self-organizing ecosystem model. Diversity manipulation numerical experiments reveal positive, asymptotically saturating relationships between ecosystem-wide phytoplankton diversity and functions of productivity, nutrient uptake, remineralization, and diversity metrics used to identify mechanisms shaping these relationships. Increase in productivity with increasing diversity improves modeled ecosystem stability and model robustness and leads to productivity rates that exceed expected yields primarily through niche complementarity and facilitative interactions between coexisting phytoplankton types; the composition of traits in assemblages determines the magnitude of complementarity and selection effects. While findings based on these aggregate measures of diversity effects parallel those from the majority of experimental outcomes of terrestrial and benthic biodiversity–ecosystem function studies, we combine analyses of community diversity effects and investigations of the underlying interactions among phytoplankton types to demonstrate how an increase in recycled production of non-diatoms through an increase in new production of diatoms drives this diversity–ecosystem function response. We demonstrate the important role that facilitation plays in the modeled marine plankton and how this facilitative interaction could amplify future climate-driven changes in ocean ecosystem productivity.

Keywords: California Current System, complementarity, diversity, ecosystem function, facilitation, marine ecosystem, niche, numerical model, nutrient uptake, phytoplankton, primary productivity, selection.

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