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Curr Biol. 2008 Jan 8;18(1):1-8. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2007.11.056. Epub 2007 Dec 27.

Exponential decline of deep-sea ecosystem functioning linked to benthic biodiversity loss.

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  • 1Department of Marine Science, Faculty of Science, Polytechnic University of Marche, Via Brecce Bianche, 60131 Ancona, Italy.



Recent investigations suggest that biodiversity loss might impair the functioning and sustainability of ecosystems. Although deep-sea ecosystems are the most extensive on Earth, represent the largest reservoir of biomass, and host a large proportion of undiscovered biodiversity, the data needed to evaluate the consequences of biodiversity loss on the ocean floor are completely lacking.


Here, we present a global-scale study based on 116 deep-sea sites that relates benthic biodiversity to several independent indicators of ecosystem functioning and efficiency. We show that deep-sea ecosystem functioning is exponentially related to deep-sea biodiversity and that ecosystem efficiency is also exponentially linked to functional biodiversity. These results suggest that a higher biodiversity supports higher rates of ecosystem processes and an increased efficiency with which these processes are performed. The exponential relationships presented here, being consistent across a wide range of deep-sea ecosystems, suggest that mutually positive functional interactions (ecological facilitation) can be common in the largest biome of our biosphere.


Our results suggest that a biodiversity loss in deep-sea ecosystems might be associated with exponential reductions of their functions. Because the deep sea plays a key role in ecological and biogeochemical processes at a global scale, this study provides scientific evidence that the conservation of deep-sea biodiversity is a priority for a sustainable functioning of the worlds' oceans.

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