Connections Between Changing Regional Biodiversity and Marine Ecosystem Services

EPA Grant Number: FP916332
Title: Connections Between Changing Regional Biodiversity and Marine Ecosystem Services
Investigators: France, Kristin E.
Institution: College of William and Mary-VA
EPA Project Officer: Michaud, Jayne
Project Period: January 1, 2004 through December 31, 2006
Project Amount: $105,416
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2004) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Aquatic Ecosystems , Fellowship - Aquatic Ecology and Ecosystems


Three major anthropogenic modifications of the environment—habitat fragmentation, climate change, and species introductions—are all likely to affect regional species pools (i.e., the set of species occurring in a region that is capable of reaching and surviving in a given location). These relatively rapid changes in regional species pools are likely to affect biodiversity across local communities. Research on the relationship of biodiversity to ecosystem functions, such as productivity, nutrient cycling, and invasion resistance, however, has focused on the effects of random species loss at local scales in static experimental setups. In other words, we still know very little about how habitat fragmentation, climate change, and species introductions will affect ecosystem function because we have studied only the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem function in isolation from regional processes, such as immigration and disturbance, that often mediate diversity.

The objective of my dissertation research is to increase our understanding of how communities and the ecosystem services they provide respond to these relatively rapid changes in regional species pools. My research will explore several hypotheses:

  • Changing regional pool size will change mean local richness in the same direction.
  • Decreasing regional pool size will increase ecosystem function variability across a landscape.
  • Community similarity will increase with increasing dispersal and decreasing species pool size.
  • Species additions to and removals from regional pools will not have compensatory effects on ecosystem function.


I am using a combination of theoretical models, mesocosm experiments, and analysis of field patterns. Currently, I am using Markov chain models to model regional and local dynamics of species abundance in response to species losses from (extinctions) and additions to (invasions) the regional pool. Using seagrass communities as a test system, I am testing the effects of changing the size of the regional species pool of crustacean grazers on patterns of grazer diversity and ecosystem functions such as primary and secondary production, community respiration, and invasion resistance. Finally, I plan to use differences in regional species pool size created by differential invasion of U.S. estuaries to examine the effects of regional species pool size on the distribution of species abundances and ecosystem function in the field.

This research will contribute to our understanding of how changing regional biodiversity affects local diversity and ecosystem function. This information is critical for conserving diversity and managing essential ecosystem services in light of the likely changes to regional species pools caused by habitat fragmentation, non-native species introductions, and climate change. Because conservation often operates at the local scale, managers need information about the probable effects of regional dynamics on local communities. My research also will help improve the success of seagrass restoration (a U.S. and global objective) by providing information about seagrass ecosystem services at several spatial scales. Understanding the relationships between biodiversity and ecosystem function at these different scales and dispersal regimes is critical for managing ecosystem services in an increasingly fragmented environment.

Supplemental Keywords:

fellowship, biodiversity, ecosystem function, species pools, seagrass, habitat fragmentation, climate change, species introduction, species invasion, species extinction, conservation, estuaries, regional biodiversity,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Air, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Aquatic Ecosystems & Estuarine Research, climate change, Air Pollution Effects, Aquatic Ecosystem, Monitoring/Modeling, Ecology and Ecosystems, Biology, Atmosphere, environmental monitoring, bioassessment, biodiversity, disruptive selection, environmental gradients, habitat fragmentation, regional species pools, aquatic ecosystems, genetic divergence, adaptation

Relevant Websites:

2004 STAR Graduate Fellowship Conference Poster (PDF, 1p., 164KB, about PDF)

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2004
  • 2005
  • Final