Exponential decline of deep-sea ecosystem functioning linked to benthic biodiversity loss

Curr Biol. 2008 Jan 8;18(1):1-8. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2007.11.056. Epub 2007 Dec 27.


Background: Recent investigations suggest that biodiversity loss might impair the functioning and sustainability of ecosystems. Although deep-sea ecosystems are the most extensive on Earth, represent the largest reservoir of biomass, and host a large proportion of undiscovered biodiversity, the data needed to evaluate the consequences of biodiversity loss on the ocean floor are completely lacking.

Results: Here, we present a global-scale study based on 116 deep-sea sites that relates benthic biodiversity to several independent indicators of ecosystem functioning and efficiency. We show that deep-sea ecosystem functioning is exponentially related to deep-sea biodiversity and that ecosystem efficiency is also exponentially linked to functional biodiversity. These results suggest that a higher biodiversity supports higher rates of ecosystem processes and an increased efficiency with which these processes are performed. The exponential relationships presented here, being consistent across a wide range of deep-sea ecosystems, suggest that mutually positive functional interactions (ecological facilitation) can be common in the largest biome of our biosphere.

Conclusions: Our results suggest that a biodiversity loss in deep-sea ecosystems might be associated with exponential reductions of their functions. Because the deep sea plays a key role in ecological and biogeochemical processes at a global scale, this study provides scientific evidence that the conservation of deep-sea biodiversity is a priority for a sustainable functioning of the worlds' oceans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biodiversity*
  • Biomass
  • Carbon / chemistry
  • Carbon / metabolism
  • Food Chain
  • Oceans and Seas
  • Oxygen / analysis
  • Seawater / chemistry


  • Carbon
  • Oxygen