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Keywords:

  • Abundance;
  • arthropods;
  • biodiversity experiments;
  • community ecology;
  • ecosystem function;
  • phylogenetic diversity;
  • trophic levels

Abstract

Large-scale habitat destruction and climate change result in the non-random loss of evolutionary lineages, reducing the amount of evolutionary history represented in ecological communities. Yet, we have limited understanding of the consequences of evolutionary history on the structure of food webs and the services provided by biological communities. Drawing on 11 years of data from a long-term plant diversity experiment, we show that evolutionary history of plant communities – measured as phylogenetic diversity – strongly predicts diversity and abundance of herbivorous and predatory arthropods. Effects of plant species richness on arthropods become stronger when phylogenetic diversity is high. Plant phylogenetic diversity explains predator and parasitoid richness as strongly as it does herbivore richness. Our findings indicate that accounting for evolutionary relationships is critical to understanding the severity of species loss for food webs and ecosystems, and for developing conservation and restoration policies.