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Diversity decoupled from ecosystem function and resilience during mass extinction recovery

Alvarez, SA; Gibbs, SJ; Bown, PR; Kim, H; Sheward, RM; Ridgwell, A; (2019) Diversity decoupled from ecosystem function and resilience during mass extinction recovery. Nature , 574 pp. 242-245. 10.1038/s41586-019-1590-8. Green open access

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Abstract

The Chicxulub bolide impact 66 million years ago drove the near-instantaneous collapse of ocean ecosystems. The devastating loss of diversity at the base of ocean food webs probably triggered cascading extinctions across all trophic levels and caused severe disruption of the biogeochemical functions of the ocean, and especially disrupted the cycling of carbon between the surface and deep sea. The absence of sufficiently detailed biotic data that span the post-extinction interval has limited our understanding of how ecosystem resilience and biochemical function was restored; estimates of ecosystem ‘recovery’ vary from less than 100 years to 10 million years. Here, using a 13-million-year-long nannoplankton time series, we show that post-extinction communities exhibited 1.8 million years of exceptional volatility before a more stable equilibrium-state community emerged that displayed hallmarks of resilience. The transition to this new equilibrium-state community with a broader spectrum of cell sizes coincides with indicators of carbon-cycle restoration and a fully functioning biological pump. These findings suggest a fundamental link between ecosystem recovery and biogeochemical cycling over timescales that are longer than those suggested by proxies of export production, but far shorter than the return of taxonomic richness. The fact that species richness remained low as both community stability and biological pump efficiency re-emerged suggests that ecological functions rather than the number of species are more important to community resilience and biochemical functions.

Type: Article
Title: Diversity decoupled from ecosystem function and resilience during mass extinction recovery
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1038/s41586-019-1590-8
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-019-1590-8
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Carbon cycle, Evolutionary ecology, Palaeoceanography
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences > Dept of Earth Sciences
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10082375
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