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Keywords:

  • Coastal marine ecosystems;
  • diversity;
  • ecological functions;
  • fish assemblages;
  • functional redundancy;
  • human impacts;
  • marine protected areas;
  • marine reserves;
  • recovery;
  • resilience

Abstract

The relationship between species and functional diversity remains poorly understood for nearly all ecosystem types, yet determining this relationship is critically important for developing both a mechanistic understanding of community assembly and appropriate expectations and approaches to protecting and restoring biological communities. Here we use two distinct data sets, one from kelp forests in the Channel Islands, California, and one from a global synthesis of marine reserves, to directly test how variation in species diversity translates into changes in functional diversity. We find strong positive relationships between species and functional diversity, and increased functional diversity of fish assemblages coinciding with recovery of species diversity in marine reserves, independent of the method used for classifying species in functional groups. These results indicate that low levels of redundancy in functional species traits exist across a suite of marine systems, and that fishing tends to remove whole functional groups from coastal marine ecosystems.