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Nature. 2005 Jan 27;433(7024):410-3.

Long-term relationships between ecological stability and biodiversity in Phanerozoic reefs.

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Museum of Natural History, Humboldt University Berlin, Invalidenstrasse 43, D-10115 Berlin, Germany.


High biodiversity has been shown to enhance ecological stability on small spatial scales and over intervals of weeks to decades. It remains unclear, however, whether this diversity-stability relationship can be scaled up to regional scales, or to longer timescales. Without empirical validation at larger scales, the implications of the diversity-stability relationship for both ecology and long-term conservation strategies cannot readily be resolved. Here I show that in biogenic reefs, ecological stability is related to taxonomic diversity on million-year timescales. The higher the mean reef diversity in a particular time interval, the smaller the change in skeletal density, style of reef building and biotic reef types in the subsequent time interval. Because the relationships apply to a wide spectrum of disturbance regimes and reef types, these results support the hypothesis that species richness itself promotes ecological stability. Carbonate production by reefs, while closely correlated with reef diversity without temporal lag, is not stabilized by reef diversity over these long timescales. This suggests that ecological stability and productivity may be decoupled in natural ecosystems.

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