Relationships between attributes of biodiversity
and ecosystem function are of vital theoretical and practical
importance. For example, reducing the negative consequences of
reductions of biodiversity as a result of human activities requires
an understanding of the role that biodiversity plays in maintaining
critical life support processes or ecosystem services. Nonetheless,
little consensus exists in the scientific community concerning the
form of those relationships or the mechanisms that give rise to
them. Perhaps the only thing about which most investigators agree is
that patterns may be scale-dependent, with multiple mechanisms
operating at different spatial and temporal scales.
Like many general and broad-scale questions in ecology, the
data needed to address critical aspects of the relationship between
biodiversity and ecosystem function are scattered, heterogeneous,
and complex. The Knowledge Network for Biocomplexity (KNB) is a tool
that offers a significant advancement in synthesizing relevant
environmental information to more thoroughly address this important
ecological relationship and to gain a better understanding of the
mechanisms that give rise to it.
To demonstrate the ability of the KNB to substantially
advance ecological understanding, we explore the scale-dependent
relationship between species diversity and ecosystem processes in
In the validation phase, we will assess the efficacy with
which the KNB identifies and retrieves data on productivity and
species richness from grassland Long-Term
Ecological Research (LTER) sites, which previously were analyzed
through efforts of a working group at the
National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis.
In the expansion phase, we will enlarge the domain of
analyses to include other field sites in the LTER network, Organization of Biological Field
Stations, and the California
Nature Reserve System.
In the amplification phase, we will expand analyses to
include measures of biodiversity other than species richness, as
well as measures of ecosystem function other than productivity.
In the extrapolation phase, the KNB will access a broad array
of information from selected governmental and public databases, as
well as from climatic and earth science computer models, to explore
relationships at continental or global scales.