By Bradley J. Cardinale et al
In the past 20 years remarkable progress has been made towards understanding how the loss of biodiversity affects the functioning of ecosystems and thus affects society. Soon after the 1992 Earth
Summit in Rio de Janeiro, interest in understanding how biodiversity loss might affect the dynamics and functioning of ecosystems, and the supply of goods and services, grew dramatically. Major international research initiatives formed; hundreds of experiments were performed in ecosystems all over the globe; new ecological theories were developed and tested against experimental results.
Here we review two decades of research that has examined how biodiversity loss influences ecosystem functions, and the impacts that this can have on the goods and services ecosystems provide (Box 1). We begin with a brief historical introduction. We then summarize the major results from research that has provided increasingly rigorous answers to the question of how and why the Earth’s biological diversity influences the functioning of ecosystems. After this, we consider the closely related issue of how biodiversity provides specific ecosystem services of value to humanity. We close by considering how the next generation of bio- diversity science can reduce our uncertainties and better serve policy and management initiatives.