More birds, more service

Gaston, K.J., Cox, D.T.C., Canavelli, S.B., García, D., Hughes, B., Maas, B., Martínez, D., Ogada, D. & Inger, R. Population abundance and ecosystem service provision: the case of birds. BioScience, in press [advance articles].

Whilst there is a diversity of concerns about recent persistent declines in the abundances of many species, the implications for the associated delivery of ecosystem services to people are surprisingly poorly understood. In principle, there are a broad range of potential functional relationships between the abundance of a species or group of species and the magnitude of ecosystem service provision. Here we identify the forms these relationships are most likely to take. Focusing on the case of birds, we review the empirical evidence for these functional relationships, with examples of supporting, regulating and cultural services. Positive relationships between abundance and ecosystem service provision are the norm (although seldom linear), we found no evidence for hump-shaped relationships, and negative ones were limited to cultural services that value rarity. Given the magnitude of abundance declines amongst many previously common species, it is likely that there have been substantial losses of ecosystem services, providing important implications for the identification of potential tipping points in relation to defaunation resilience, biodiversity conservation and human wellbeing. Download pdf