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Contrasting responses of functional diversity to major losses in taxonomic diversity
 

 

Contrasting responses of functional diversity to major losses in taxonomic diversity

  1. James W. Valentineb,c,1
  1. Contributed by James W. Valentine, November 17, 2017 (sent for review October 10, 2017; reviewed by David J. Bottjer and Philip M. Novack-Gottshall)

  2. Significance

    Global biodiversity consists not only of the sum of taxonomic units such as species, but also of their ecological or functional variety. These two components of biodiversity might be expected to rise or fall in tandem, but we find they are capable of strikingly independent behavior. In three major declines in taxonomic diversity—spatially from equator to poles today and temporally in the Permian–Triassic and Cretaceous–Paleogene extinctions—only the first one shows a concomitant drop in the number of functional groups, whereas virtually all functional categories survived the extinction events. We present a conceptual framework for understanding this contrast, and we suggest that the differing behavior of these two biodiversity components will be important in anticipating the impacts of impending losses in today’s biota.

  3.  

  4. Abstract

    Taxonomic diversity of benthic marine invertebrate shelf species declines at present by nearly an order of magnitude from the tropics to the poles in each hemisphere along the latitudinal diversity gradient (LDG), most steeply along the western Pacific where shallow-sea diversity is at its tropical maximum. In the Bivalvia, a model system for macroevolution and macroecology, this taxonomic trend is accompanied by a decline in the number of functional groups and an increase in the evenness of taxa distributed among those groups, with maximum functional evenness (FE) in polar waters of both hemispheres. In contrast, analyses of this model system across the two era-defining events of the Phanerozoic, the Permian–Triassic and Cretaceous–Paleogene mass extinctions, show only minor declines in functional richness despite high extinction intensities, resulting in a rise in FE owing to the persistence of functional groups. We hypothesize that the spatial decline of taxonomic diversity and increase in FE along the present-day LDG primarily reflect diversity-dependent factors, whereas retention of almost all functional groups through the two mass extinctions suggests the operation of diversity-independent factors. Comparative analyses of different aspects of biodiversity thus reveal strongly contrasting biological consequences of similarly severe declines in taxonomic diversity and can help predict the consequences for functional diversity among different drivers of past, present, and future biodiversity loss.

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