In freshwaters, ecosystem processes are linked to biodiversity at several levels. Biodiversity of terrestrial landscapes affects erosion and the flow of silt and nutrients to freshwater systems. Within lakes and streams, species interactions can lead to massive changes in ecosystem components and processes. In other cases, species replacement dampens the response of ecosystem processes to stress. Despite many intriguing examples of connections between biodiversity and ecosystem processes, our ability to predict the effects of stress on freshwater ecosystem complexity and function is fragmented and incomplete.
The major stressors of freshwater ecosystems are habitat loss and degradation, species invasions, overharvesting and pollution. These disturbances tend to reduce the diversity of freshwater communities and ecosystems at regional to global scales. One reason to sustain freshwater biodiversity is to preserve options For assembly of landscapes, ecosystems and communities under different environments of the future.
Conservation goals and research objectives converge in large-scale management programs designed for learning by doing. We hypothesize that maintaining biodiversity of freshwater ecosystems will entail the maintenance of biodiversity at other scales: in the terrestrial landscapes of the watersheds and in the constituents (communities, populations, species and genotypes) of the ecosystems.
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