Biodiversity, productivity, and the spatial insurance hypothesis revisited

David W. Shanafelt, Ulf Dieckmann, Matthias Jonas, Oskar Franklin, Michel Loreau, Charles Perrings

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Accelerating rates of biodiversity loss have led ecologists to explore the effects of species richness on ecosystem functioning and the flow of ecosystem services. One explanation of the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning lies in the spatial insurance hypothesis, which centers on the idea that productivity and stability increase with biodiversity in a temporally varying, spatially heterogeneous environment. However, there has been little work on the impact of dispersal where environmental risks are more or less spatially correlated, or where dispersal rates are variable. In this paper, we extend the original Loreau model to consider stochastic temporal variation in resource availability, which we refer to as "environmental risk", and heterogeneity in species dispersal rates. We find that asynchronies across communities and species provide community-level stabilizing effects on productivity, despite varying levels of species richness. Although intermediate dispersal rates play a role in mitigating risk, they are less effective in insuring productivity against global (metacommunity-level) than local (individual community-level) risks. These results are particularly interesting given the emergence of global sources of risk such as climate change or the closer integration of world markets. Our results offer deeper insights into the Loreau model and new perspectives on the effectiveness of spatial insurance in the face of environmental risks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)426-435
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
StatePublished - Sep 7 2015


  • Dispersal
  • Risk
  • Stability
  • Stochasticity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Applied Mathematics


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