Land-use intensity alters networks between biodiversity, ecosystem functions, and services

Ecosystem services derive from ecosystem functions and rely on complex interactions among a diversity of organisms. By understanding the relationships between biodiversity, ecosystem functions, and the services humans receive from nature, researchers can anticipate how changes in land use will affect ecosystems and human wellbeing. In this paper, MarĂ­a R. Felipe-Lucia and colleagues studied how changes in land-use intensity affect the relationships between biodiversity, ecosystem functions, and services. 

For this, they built networks from correlations between the species richness of 16 trophic groups, 10 ecosystem functions, and 15 ecosystem services. They evaluated how the properties of these networks varied across land-use intensity gradients for 150 forests and 150 grasslands. Land-use intensity significantly affected network structure in both habitats. Changes in connectance were larger in forests, while changes in modularity and evenness were more evident in grasslands. Their results show that increasing land-use intensity leads to more homogeneous networks with less integration within modules in both habitats, driven by the belowground compartment in grasslands, while forest responses to land management were more complex. Land-use intensity strongly altered hub identity and module composition in both habitats, showing that the positive correlations of provisioning services with biodiversity and ecosystem functions found at low land-use intensity levels, decline at higher intensity levels. Their approach provides a comprehensive view of the relationships between multiple components of biodiversity, ecosystem functions, and ecosystem services and how they respond to land use. This can be used to identify overall changes in the ecosystem, to derive mechanistic hypotheses, and it can be readily applied to further global change drivers.

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