Re-evaluating the relationships between biodiversity and ecosystem function with methods from the social sciences

2nd December 2020 4:00pm

Event Details

Start Date: 2nd December 2020 4:00pm


Event Description

This week Prof Paul J Ferraro joins us from Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore.

Paul Ferraro is a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor in the Carey Business School and the Department of Environmental Health and Engineering, a joint department of the Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Whiting School of Engineering.  Ferraro is also co-Director of the Center for Behavioral and Experimental Agri-environmental Research (CBEAR) and Director of the Environmental Program Innovations Collaborative (EPIC).

Abstract: Through experimental and observational research, ecologists and conservation scientists seek to understand causal relationships between biodiversity and ecosystem function. While most experiments report positive relationships, evidence from non-experimental settings is mixed. These conflicting results reflect challenges in developing empirical designs that permit credible, generalizable causal inferences from ecological systems. To show how these challenges may be met, we leverage longitudinal data from 43 grasslands ecosystems in 11 countries and apply methods from public health and economics designed for inferring causality from observational data. We estimate that, on average, increases in species richness lowers productivity. Although increases in the richness of native, dominant species increase productivity, increases in the richness of rare or non-native species, which are more abundant in diverse plots, decrease productivity. We attribute the difference between our results and prior results to confounding factors in non-experimental designs and the ways in which biodiversity was manipulated in experimental designs

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