Higher biodiversity is required to sustain multiple ecosystem processes across temperature regimes

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Biodiversity loss is occurring rapidly worldwide, yet it is uncertain whether few or many species are required to sustain ecosystem functioning in the face of environmental change. The importance of biodiversity might be enhanced when multiple ecosystem processes (termed multifunctionality) and environmental contexts are considered, yet no studies have quantified this explicitly to date. We measured five key processes and their combined multifunctionality at three temperatures (5, 10 and 15 °C) in freshwater aquaria containing different animal assemblages (1–4 benthic macroinvertebrate species). For single processes, biodiversity effects were weak and were best predicted by additive-based models, i.e. polyculture performances represented the sum of their monoculture parts. There were, however, significant effects of biodiversity on multifunctionality at the low and the high (but not the intermediate) temperature. Variation in the contribution of species to processes across temperatures meant that greater biodiversity was required to sustain multifunctionality across different temperatures than was the case for single processes. This suggests that previous studies might have underestimated the importance of biodiversity in sustaining ecosystem functioning in a changing environment.

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