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Lack of functional redundancy in the relationship between microbial diversity and ecosystem functioning.

Delgado-Baquerizo, Manuel; Giaramida, Luca; Reich, Peter B.; Khachane, Amit N.; Hamonts, Kelly; Edwards, Christine; Lawton, Linda A.; Singh, Brajesh K.


Manuel Delgado-Baquerizo

Luca Giaramida

Peter B. Reich

Amit N. Khachane

Kelly Hamonts

Brajesh K. Singh


1. Biodiversity is declining worldwide with detrimental effects on ecosystems. However, we lack a quantitative understanding of the shape of the relationship between microbial biodiversity and ecosystem function (BEF). This limits our understanding of how microbial diversity depletion can impact key functions for human well-being, including pollutant detoxification. 2. Three independent microcosm experiments were conducted to evaluate the direction (i.e. positive, negative or null) and the shape of the relationships between bacterial diversity and both broad (i.e. microbial respiration) and specialized (i.e. toxin degradation) functions in five Australian and two UK freshwater ecosystems using next-generation sequencing platforms. 3. Reduced bacterial diversity, even after accounting for biomass, caused a decrease in broad (i.e. cumulative microbial respiration) and specialized (biodegradation of two important toxins) functions in all cases. Unlike the positive but decelerating BEF relationship observed most frequently in plants and animals, most evaluated functional measurements were related to bacterial diversity in a non-redundant fashion (e.g. exponentially and/or linearly). 4. Synthesis. Our results suggest that there is a lack of functional redundancy in the relationship between bacterial diversity and ecosystem functioning; thus the consequences of declining microbial diversity on ecosystem functioning and human welfare have likely been considerably underestimated.


DELGADO-BAQUERIZO, M., GIARAMIDA, L., REICH, P.B., KHACHANE, A.N., HAMONTS, K., EDWARDS, C., LAWTON, L.A. and SINGH, B.K. 2016. Lack of functional redundancy in the relationship between microbial diversity and ecosystem functioning. Journal of ecology [online], 104(4), pages 936-946. Available from:

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 5, 2016
Online Publication Date May 9, 2016
Publication Date Jul 31, 2016
Deposit Date Jun 21, 2016
Publicly Available Date May 10, 2017
Journal Journal of ecology
Print ISSN 0022-0477
Electronic ISSN 1365-2745
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 104
Issue 4
Pages 936-946
Keywords Bacteria; Broad functions; Ecosystems services; Freshwater ecosystems; Microbial richness; Pyrosequencing; Respiration; Specialised functions; Toxin degradation
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