Based on the premise that ecosystems with more species will function at more efficient rates, declining biodiversity is expected to alter important ecosystem functions, goods, and services across the globe. However, applicability of this general hypothesis to genetic or clonal richness in assemblages composed of few species is understudied. This illustrates the need to expand the focus of biodiversity—ecosystem-function experiments across all levels of biological diversity (including genetic). To explore this generality, we manipulated intraspecific (clonal) and interspecific (species) richness of a primary consumer, Daphnia, and measured assemblage feeding rate and total resource consumption. Our results showed that greater clonal richness had no effect on Daphnia feeding, and greater species richness decreased feeding-related effects of Daphnia. This suggests that multiclonal Daphnia assemblages may be no more efficient at consuming resources than monocultures, and that monocultures of Daphnia may consume resources more efficiently than more species-rich assemblages. The inhibitory effect of increasing richness observed in this study resulted from chemical and mechanical interference among some of the Daphnia taxa. This suggests that consumer-mediated ecosystem functions could be reduced when assemblages include taxa equipped with adaptations for interference competition.
Ecology publishes articles that report on the basic elements of ecological research. Emphasis is placed on concise, clear articles documenting important ecological phenomena. The journal publishes a broad array of research that includes a rapidly expanding envelope of subject matter, techniques, approaches, and concepts: paleoecology through present-day phenomena; evolutionary, population, physiological, community, and ecosystem ecology, as well as biogeochemistry; inclusive of descriptive, comparative, experimental, mathematical, statistical, and interdisciplinary approaches.
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