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The importance of biodiversity for the integrated functioning of ecosystems remains unclear because most evidence comes from analyses of biodiversity's effect on individual functions. Here we show that the effects of biodiversity on ecosystem function become more important as more functions are considered. We present the first systematic investigation of biodiversity's effect on ecosystem multifunctionality across multiple taxa, trophic levels and habitats using a comprehensive database of 94 manipulations of species richness. We show that species-rich communities maintained multiple functions at higher levels than depauperate ones. These effects were stronger for herbivore biodiversity than for plant biodiversity, and were remarkably consistent across aquatic and terrestrial habitats. Despite observed tradeoffs, the overall effect of biodiversity on multifunctionality grew stronger as more functions were considered. These results indicate that prior research has underestimated the importance of biodiversity for ecosystem functioning by focusing on individual functions and taxonomic groups.

Original publication




Journal article


Nat Commun

Publication Date





Animals, Biodiversity, Computer Simulation, Food Chain, Herbivory, Models, Biological, Plants, Sensitivity and Specificity