Contrasting responses of functional diversity to major losses in taxonomic diversity.Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018 01 23; 115(4):732-737.PN
Taxonomic diversity of benthic marine invertebrate shelf species declines at present by nearly an order of magnitude from the tropics to the poles in each hemisphere along the latitudinal diversity gradient (LDG), most steeply along the western Pacific where shallow-sea diversity is at its tropical maximum. In the Bivalvia, a model system for macroevolution and macroecology, this taxonomic trend is accompanied by a decline in the number of functional groups and an increase in the evenness of taxa distributed among those groups, with maximum functional evenness (FE) in polar waters of both hemispheres. In contrast, analyses of this model system across the two era-defining events of the Phanerozoic, the Permian-Triassic and Cretaceous-Paleogene mass extinctions, show only minor declines in functional richness despite high extinction intensities, resulting in a rise in FE owing to the persistence of functional groups. We hypothesize that the spatial decline of taxonomic diversity and increase in FE along the present-day LDG primarily reflect diversity-dependent factors, whereas retention of almost all functional groups through the two mass extinctions suggests the operation of diversity-independent factors. Comparative analyses of different aspects of biodiversity thus reveal strongly contrasting biological consequences of similarly severe declines in taxonomic diversity and can help predict the consequences for functional diversity among different drivers of past, present, and future biodiversity loss.