Emerging consensus on biodiversity and ecosystem functioning


Λoreau, M., Naeem, S. & Inchausti, P. (eds) ( 2002 ) Biodiversity and ecosystem functioning — synthesis and perspectives . Oxford University Press , Oxford, UK . xii + 294 pp , figs, tables, line diagrams, index. Hardback: price £65.00 , ISBN 0-19-851570-7 . Paperback: price £32.50 , ISBN 0-19-851571-5 .

After nearly a decade of vigorous (and sometimes vituperative) debate about the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, a consensus is emerging on the nature and underlying mechanisms of this relationship. This landmark book, edited by Michael Loreau, Shahid Naeem, and Pablo Inchausti, synthesizes that consensus. The book is the product of a conference held in Paris, France, in December 2000, which was attended by most of the leading advocates for alternative perspectives on the diversity-function relationship. Rarely has a meeting been so successful in identifying and distilling the substantive issues underlying a major scientific debate.

After two introductory chapters that lay out the central framework and history of the diversity-function debate, there are several groups of chapters that explore different aspects of this relationship. The chapters on biodiversity and ecosystem dynamics in grasslands focus on manipulative experiments that use annual grasslands as model systems. These chapters summarize the major issues involved and present a concensus on how future experiments might be designed and interpreted. The chapters on the relationship between diversity and ecosystem stability provide clear conceptual frameworks and syntheses of evidence that biodiversity does influence ecosystem stability and that the mechanisms involved depend on a variety of factors, including trophic structure, spatial scale, and the component of stability being assessed. The remainder of the book deals with a multitude of other important topics, including variations in diversity-function relationships among different types of ecosystems and different groups of species within a given community, and the application of these principles to management.

In summary, this book presents the best available synthesis of the multitude of issues surrounding the diversity-function debate. The book clearly spells out a variety of issues requiring further research and provides an excellent conceptual platform from which to move forward.