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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 311:273-283 (2006)  -  doi:10.3354/meps311273

Expanding scales in biodiversity-based research: challenges and solutions for marine systems

Shahid Naeem*

Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology, Columbia University, 1200 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, New York 10027, USA

ABSTRACT: As in terrestrial biodiversity, human influences over marine biodiversity will alter the way ecosystems contribute to biogeochemical or ecosystem processes. While many studies have documented how alterations of terrestrial biology affect ecosystem functioning, few studies have examined marine systems. The main challenge faced by biodiversity and ecosystem functioning (BEF) research in marine ecology is dealing with the large scales of marine systems and the logistical difficulties of attempting to conduct the kinds of complex, combinatorial experiments that have been done in terrestrial ecology. BioMERGE (Biotic Mechanisms of Ecosystem Regulation in the Global Environment) has developed a framework for relating biodiversity, via biomass, to ecosystem functioning and for employing extinction scenarios to explore the realm of possible changes in ecosystem functioning that biodiversity loss could create. This approach may find much utility in marine BEF research because it obviates the need for complex experiments. I provide an overview of the issues, the framework, and some directions marine ecology could take to further our understanding of the ecosystem consequences of marine biodiversity loss.

KEY WORDS: Biodiversity · Ecosystem function · Marine · Extinction · Biogeochemistry

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