We have developed a suite of mathematical models that predict how loss of species, interactions among species, and simplification of food webs influence ecological processes like primary production, decomposition, and nutrient cycling that control the efficiency and productivity of ecosystems.

The lab has tested the predictions of these models in both lab- and field experiments, primarily using freshwater organisms as model systems. Our experiments were among the first to show that biodiversity enhances the efficiency and productivity of ecosystems through niche partitioning among species, and via facilitative interactions that cause diverse communities to be greater than the sum-of-their-parts. These mechanisms had long-been presumed to operate in nature, but empirical evidence was lacking.

Example publications

Cardinale, B. J. 2011. Biodiversity improves water quality through niche partitioning. Nature, 472:86-89 (doi:10.1038/nature09904).

Ives, A. R., and B. J. Cardinale. 2004. Food-web interactions govern the resistance of communities to non-random extinctions. Nature 429:174-177.

Key collaborators



  • Department Head, Ecosystem Science and Management