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PLoS One. 2011;6(8):e22041. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0022041. Epub 2011 Aug 5.

Productivity-diversity relationships in lake plankton communities.

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  • 1Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland.


One of the most intriguing environmental gradients connected with variation in diversity is ecosystem productivity. The role of diversity in ecosystems is pivotal, because species richness can be both a cause and a consequence of primary production. However, the mechanisms behind the varying productivity-diversity relationships (PDR) remain poorly understood. Moreover, large-scale studies on PDR across taxa are urgently needed. Here, we examined the relationships between resource supply and phyto-, bacterio-, and zooplankton richness in 100 small boreal lakes. We studied the PDR locally within the drainage systems and regionally across the systems. Second, we studied the relationships between resource availability, species richness, biomass and resource ratio (N:P) in phytoplankton communities using Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) for testing the multivariate hypothesis of PDR. At the local scale, the PDR showed variable patterns ranging from positive linear and unimodal to negative linear relationships for all planktonic groups. At the regional scale, PDRs were significantly linear and positive for phyto- and zooplankton. Phytoplankton richness and the amount of chlorophyll a showed a positive linear relationship indicating that communities consisting of higher number of species were able to produce higher levels of biomass. According to the SEM, phytoplankton biomass was largely related to resource availability, yet there was a pathway via community richness. Finally, we found that species richness at all trophic levels was correlated with several environmental factors, and was also related to richness at the other trophic levels. This study showed that the PDRs in freshwaters show scale-dependency. We also documented that the PDR complies with the multivariate model showing that plant biomass is not mirroring merely the resource availability, but is also influenced by richness. This highlights the need for conserving diversity in order to maintain ecosystem processes in freshwaters.

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