Determining the mechanism by which fish diversity influences production

Michael P. Carey, David H. Wahl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Understanding the ability of biodiversity to govern ecosystem function is essential with current pressures on natural communities from species invasions and extirpations. Changes in fish communities can be a major determinant of food web dynamics, and even small shifts in species composition or richness can translate into large effects on ecosystems. In addition, there is a large information gap in extrapolating results of small-scale biodiversity-ecosystem function experiments to natural systems with realistic environmental complexity. Thus, we tested the key mechanisms (resource complementarity and selection effect) for biodiversity to influence fish production in mesocosms and ponds. Fish diversity treatments were created by replicating species richness and species composition within each richness level. In mesocosms, increasing richness had a positive effect on fish biomass with an overyielding pattern indicating species mixtures were more productive than any individual species. Additive partitioning confirmed a positive net effect of biodiversity driven by a complementarity effect. Productivity was less affected by species diversity when species were more similar. Thus, the primary mechanism driving fish production in the mesocosms was resource complementarity. In the ponds, the mechanism driving fish production changed through time. The key mechanism was initially resource complementarity until production was influenced by the selection effect. Varying strength of intraspecific interactions resulting from differences in resource levels and heterogeneity likely caused differences in mechanisms between the mesocosm and pond experiments, as well as changes through time in the ponds. Understanding the mechanisms by which fish diversity governs ecosystem function and how environmental complexity and resource levels alter these relationships can be used to improve predictions for natural systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)189-198
Number of pages10
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Environmental complexity
  • Fish diversity
  • Resource complementarity
  • Selection effect

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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