In a growing body of literature from a variety of ecosystems is strong evidence that various components of biodiversity have significant impacts on ecosystem functioning. However, much of this evidence comes from short-term, small-scale experiments in which communities are synthesized from relatively small species pools and conditions are highly controlled. Extrapolation of the results of such experiments to longer time scales and larger spatial scales—those of whole ecosystems—is difficult because the experiments do not incorporate natural processes such as recruitment limitation and colonization of new species. We show how long-term study of planned and accidental changes in species richness and composition suggests that the effects of biodiversity on ecosystem functioning will vary over time and space. More important, we also highlight areas of uncertainty that need to be addressed through coordinated cross-scale and cross-site research.
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Vol. 53 • No. 1