The potential role of species and functional composition in generating historical constraints on ecosystem processes

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Aim Biogeographical processes and past environmental conditions are known to constrain current patterns of species, functional and phylogenetic diversity. An unanswered question is whether such constraints to biodiversity also affect ecosystem processes. Location Global. Time period Neogene and Quaternary. Major taxa studied Vascular plants. Methods We propose that evolution, migration-lag in response to environmental changes, and extinction may result in historical legacies in current ecosystem composition (species and functional) that can lead to historical legacies in ecosystem processes - that is, deviations from the potential rates or magnitudes of ecosystem processes, given current environmental conditions and the habitat-suitable native species and trait pools that exist under such circumstances. Results Historical legacies in ecosystem processes may begin with changes in species richness and composition in response to environmental shifts. These changes are mediated by response traits that determine how species react to environmental changes and track suitable environmental conditions. Response traits are often associated with effect traits, which determine the rates and magnitude of ecosystem processes. Via this association, environmentally driven response-trait determined changes in species diversity may cascade to ecosystem processes through effect trait compositional changes. These changes could lead to ecosystem processes deviating from a potential state defined by current environmental conditions and the overall species pool. We populate this conceptual framework with cases that show how historical legacies in biodiversity translate to historical legacies in ecosystem processes, and we discuss the implications of the concept for global change ecology. Main conclusions We need to rethink our expectations of future ecological dynamics as past, and current, environmental changes may push ecosystem processes away from their environmentally and compositionally defined potential state.

OriginalsprogEngelsk
TidsskriftGlobal Ecology and Biogeography
Vol/bind29
Nummer2
Sider (fra-til)207-219
Antal sider13
ISSN1466-822X
DOI
StatusUdgivet - feb. 2020

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