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Seaweed diversity enhances nitrogen uptake via complementary use of nitrate and ammonium

  • Bracken, MES
  • Stachowicz, J J
Publication Date
Sep 01, 2006
eScholarship - University of California
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The consequences of declining biodiversity remain controversial, in part because many studies focus on a single metric of ecosystem functioning and fail to consider diversity's integrated effects on multiple ecosystem functions. We used tide pool microcosms as a model system to show that different conclusions about the potential effects of producer diversity on ecosystem functioning may result when ecosystem functions are measured separately vs. together. Specifically, we found that in diverse seaweed assemblages, uptake of either nitrate or ammonium alone was equal to the average of the component monocultures. However, when nitrate and ammonium were available simultaneously, uptake by diverse assemblages was 22% greater than the monoculture average because different species were complementary in their use of different nitrogen forms. Our results suggest that when individual species have dominant effects on particular ecosystem processes (i.e., the sampling effect), multivariate complementarity can arise if different species dominate different processes. Further, these results suggest that similar mechanisms ( complementary nutrient uptake) may underlie diversity - functioning relationships in both algal and vascular-plant-based systems.

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