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National and North Central CASC researchers are helping to improve predictions of ecosystem services by bridging the gap between biodiversity, ecosystem function, and ecosystem services models.

Large, global models are used to estimate how stressors like land-use change and climate change will impact ecosystem services, such as clean air and water. However, current models often do not account for the effects of biodiversity loss on ecosystem services over time. Because these global models for ecosystem services and biodiversity are developed independently of each other, estimates of ecosystem services may be overly optimistic.  

To determine how to obtain more accurate assessments of future ecosystem services, National CASC National Biodiversity Lead Sarah Weiskopf and North Central CASC research ecologist Brian Miller joined a team of researchers from SESYNC, the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, to review current models and figure out how they can be connected. In a recent article in Bioscience, the team developed a framework for integrating global biodiversity, ecosystem function, and ecosystem services models that use two alternate pathways. The first pathway uses established relationships between ecosystem function and biodiversity derived from empirical data to understand the impact on ecosystem services, which could be implemented immediately for species with sufficient data. The alternate pathway relies on relationships between species traits and ecosystem function and could be expanded to data-deficient species and ecosystems. 

This work will improve resource managers’ understanding of how changes in stressors like climate change may impact ecosystem services in the future. Using these multiple integration pathways together may also improve confidence in future estimates and their reception by decisionmakers. 

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