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.
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.
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.