Patterns of invertebrate functional diversity highlight the vulnerability of ecosystem services over a 45-year period

Greenop Arran
Woodcock Ben A.
Outhwaite Charlotte L.
Carvell Claire
Pywell Richard F.
Mancini Francesca
Edwards François K.
Johnson Andrew C.
Isaac Nick J.B.

Summary Declines in invertebrate biodiversity1,2 pose a significant threat to key ecosystem services.3, 4, 5 Current analyses of biodiversity often focus on taxonomic diversity (e.g., species richness),6,7 which does not account for the functional role of a species. Functional diversity of species’ morphological or behavioral traits is likely more relevant to ecosystem service delivery than taxonomic diversity, as functional diversity has been found to be a key driver of a number of ecosystem services including decomposition and pollination.8, 9, 10, 11, 12 At present, we lack a good understanding of long-term and large-scale changes in functional diversity, which limits our capacity to determine the vulnerability of key ecosystem services with ongoing biodiversity change. Here we derive trends in functional diversity and taxonomic diversity over a 45-year period across Great Britain for species supporting freshwater aquatic functions, pollination, natural pest control, and agricultural pests (a disservice). Species supporting aquatic functions showed a synchronous collapse and recovery in functional and taxonomic diversity. In contrast, pollinators showed an increase in taxonomic diversity, but a decline and recovery in functional diversity. Pest control agents and pests showed greater stability in functional diversity over the assessment period. We also found that functional diversity could appear stable or show patterns of recovery, despite ongoing changes in the composition of traits among species. Our results suggest that invertebrate assemblages can show considerable variability in their functional structure over time at a national scale, which provides an important step in determining the long-term vulnerability of key ecosystem services with ongoing biodiversity change.

Year of Publication
Current Biology
Number of Pages
Date Published
ISSN Number
Research themes
Download citation