Project Details


Ecosystem services, or the benefits that nature delivers to people, include many functions essential to life on earth such as carbon storage, water purification, and pollination. Two decades of ecological experiments and theory have clearly demonstrated that biodiversity plays an important role in ecosystem functioning, such that biological communities containing more species have higher levels of ecosystem function. However, virtually all of this research has been conducted at small scales and under experimentally controlled conditions that may not represent real-world ecosystems. This project will bridge the gap between the extensive knowledge scientists have developed about the biodiversity-ecosystem function relationship at smaller experimental scales, and the largely unknown role of biodiversity in driving ecosystem services at the scale of real-world landscapes. The researchers will study the pollination delivered to native wildflowers by wild insect pollinators, to determine how many pollinator species are required to provide sufficient pollination to all study sites as spatial scale increases from a single plant community to an entire landscape. Specifically, they will test contrasting predictions about how the number of species required to provide adequate ecosystem services in the real world could be either more, or fewer, than that found in experiments. The results of this study will have important applications for the management of ecosystem services as well as for biodiversity conservation.This will be the first study to investigate how two well-known features of communities, turnover in species composition across space, and species dominance (the prevalence of a few common species and many rare ones), jointly determine the importance of biodiversity to ecosystem services at real-world scales. In order to measure real-world complexity while simultaneously controlling real-world noise, the researchers will use experimental, multi-species arrays of native plants placed throughout a 1600 km2 area as a standardized method for sampling wild pollinator communities and the pollination function they provide. Rarefaction models will be used to determine how the number of pollinator species that are important to pollination changes with increasing spatial scale, and null models will be used to remove, and thus quantify, the effect of dominance relative to that of species turnover.
Effective start/end date5/1/164/30/19


  • National Science Foundation (National Science Foundation (NSF))


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