Ecosystem functioning

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What is ecosystem functioning?

An ecosystem is a dynamic complex of plant, animal and microorganism communities and their non-living environment interacting as a functional unit. Ecosystems are not only important in terms of the species they contain, but also in terms of the functions they carry out.

Marine ecosystems provide many important functions at a global, national and regional level. The seas provide a unique set of goods and services to society, including moderation of climate, processing of waste and toxicants, protection of the coastline, provision of vital food and medicines and are a source of employment for a significant number of people. Our coasts provide space to live and directly and indirectly create wealth, including millions of jobs in industries such as fishing, aquaculture and tourism.

The functioning of an ecosystem is related to its biodiversity yet the consequences of biodiversity loss for the functioning of marine ecosystems in largely unknown. Many ecosystems around the world are currently undergoing dramatic changes in species composition due to the influence of human activity. These changes have, more often than not, reduced diversity. Research within the MarBEF network aims to address the role between biodiversity and the functioning of various marine ecosystems, which will make clearer the specific importance of biodiversity and the potential impacts of its loss.