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All species are not created equal when assessing the impacts of species loss on ecosystems

Numerous studies have shown that when species are randomly lost from communities, ecosystem function declines. But such patterns of species loss do not reflect those in natural communities where major drivers of change, such as stress and disturbance, cause preferential loss of rare and uncommon species.

In the June issue of Ecology Letters, Smith and Knapp show that with a more realistic extinction scenario, in which rare and uncommon plant species were removed but the most common or dominant species were always present, no decline in aboveground plant growth of a native Kansas grassland community was observed.

Instead, the dominant species imparted resistance to ecosystem change, even in the face of a 3-fold decline in species. The loss of uncommon species did negatively affect the remaining rare species, however, which portends additional loss of these at-risk species and eventual erosion of ecosystem function.


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Contact: Emily Davis
emily.davis@oxon.blackwellpublishing.com
Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
22-May-2003


Page: 1

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