The relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem function (BEF) has been very well studied. It is generally accepted that metrics of ecosystem function, such as biomass, plant cover, or CO2 flux, are expected to increase with species richness. However, the literature supporting this relationship has suffered from two problems. First, most experiments have been conducted at very small scales on grassland and herbaceous plant species, which calls into question the validity of BEF in large scale ecosystems such as forests and oceans, as well as its application in conservation. Secondly, there is a severe underrepresentation of tropical systems in the literature. Most of the few BEF studies in the tropics are concentrated around Central America, and to date, there has been no known BEF experiments in South Asia. Yet large-scaled BEF research in underrepresented tropical regions should be of the utmost importance since these systems are often the most vulnerable to biodiversity loss.
I will study the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem function in a Sri Lankan mixed-dipterocarp rainforest. My research will address two questions: Is there a relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem function? Are there any changes to this relationship over a 40-year period?