Human society has had a negative impact on genetic, species, and functional diversity in ecosystems worldwide. A key question arising at the time of the first Earth Summit in Rio, twenty years ago, was: how will this loss of biological diversity alter the functioning of ecosystems and their ability to provide society with the goods and services needed to prosper? In the interim, a breadth of evidence has accumulated that addresses different aspects of this question. In particular, recent evidence suggests that changing biodiversity could rival climate change and pollution in their effects on both plant production and decomposition. On the other hand, evidence that changing species richness has strong effects on ecosystem services directly valued by human society is more mixed. Finally, scientists are still struggling to link the patterns measured in experiments that directly manipulate species richness with actual changes in biodiversity at local to regional scales. In this webinar, I will review the findings that have allowed scientists to provide answers to some of these questions, as well as the key questions that remain.
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