There is growing concern for how species loss from human-induced environmental change will affect the functioning of ecosystems and, in turn, the services ecosystems provide to humanity.
This study assessed the loss of functional diversity (i.e. the range of species biological traits) in benthic marine communities exposed to ocean acidification (OA) in natural CO2 vent systems.
The results of the study show that functional diversity decreases with acidification and that functional loss is more pronounced than the corresponding decrease in taxonomic diversity.
It is underpinned that reduced abundance, or even loss of entire species with important trait values, can result in the loss of crucial ecosystem processes. As examples, the authors mention the loss of long-lived, slow-growing habitat forming species (e.g. macroalgae, corals) that have important effects on species diversity.
The authors highlight that, according to these results, functional diversity should be considered, in addition to species diversity, when assessing and predicting the effects of OA on marine communities.
Teixidó et al. (2019) Functional biodiversity loss along natural CO2 gradients. Nature communications 9:5149.