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Anthropogenic effects on links between macro-invertebrate diversity and ecosystem functioning

How are links between macro-invertebrate diversity and ecosystem functioning influenced by anthropogenic pressures?

Looptijd 2014  -  2017
Contact Ellard Hunting
Financiering NWO Aspasia

Short abstract

Increasing our understanding of the fundamental links between invertebrate diversity and ecosystem functioning (and how these links are influenced by anthropogenic stressors) is essential to our efforts to conserve natural value in an era of unprecedented global change.

Macro-invertebrate effects on ecosystem functioning (decomposition) using DECOTABs. www.decotab.org

Project description

Decomposition of plant litter is a vital ecosystem process driven by both microorganisms and detritivorous invertebrates. Many ecosystems are, however, under continuous toxic pressure. Toxicants potentially decouple links between biodiversity and ecosystem processes. For instance by directly affecting decomposer organisms and therewith indirectly essential ecosystem processes. However, it remains largely unknown to which extent toxic effects cascade toward disordered ecosystem processes. The aim of the present project is therefore to evaluate how anthropogenic pressures, in particular the effects of agricultural land-use, affect the functional links between invertebrate biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. To this purpose, we perform field surveys and experiments complemented with laboratory experiments.


Standardized measures to determine decomposition rates are increasingly important for assessing effects of anthropogenic stressors on ecosystem processes. However, methods differ among studies, and some are based on using litter from different plant species that decompose at different rates. Even litter of the same species may vary in chemical composition and texture if collected at different locations or at different times. This variability hampers comparisons of decomposition dynamics over large spatial and temporal scales. We have developed a standardized substrate ( DECOTAB) that facilitates comparisons among studies, including studies aimed at assessing the response of ecosystem functioning to anthropogenic stressors. The DECOTAB approach could facilitate such standardized experiments at larger scales and increase power of meta-analyses. DECOTABS can be prepared in almost any desired size, shape, or composition to suit the needs of the specific question examined, allowing to address long-standing issues in aquatic ecology and environmental assessment.