Background: The link between biodiversity and ecosystem processes has firmly been established, but the mechanisms underpinning this relationship are poorly documented. Most studies have focused on terrestrial plant systems where resource use can be difficult to quantify as species rely on a limited number of common resources. Investigating resource use at the bulk level may not always be of sufficient resolution to detect subtle differences in resource use, as species-specific nutritional niches at the biochemical level may also moderate diversity effects on resource use. Methodology/Principal Findings: Here we use three co-occurring marine benthic echinoderms (Brissopsis lyrifera, Mesothuria intestinalis, Parastichopus tremulus) that feed on the same phytodetrital food source, to determine whether resource partitioning is the principal mechanism underpinning diversity effects on resource use. Specifically we investigate the use of phytodetrital pigments (chlorophylls and carotenoids) because many of these are essential for biological functions, including reproduction. Pigments were identified and quantified using reverse-phase high performance liquid Chromatography (HPLC) and data were analysed using a combination of extended linear regression with generalised least squares (GLS) estimation and standard multivariate techniques. Our analyses reveal no species-specific selectivity for particular algal pigments, confirming that these three species do not partition food resources at the biochemical level. Nevertheless, we demonstrate increased total resource use in diverse treatments as a result of selection effects and the dominance of one species (B. lyrifera). Conclusion: Overall, we found no evidence for resource partitioning at the biochemical level, as pigment composition was similar between individuals, which is likely due to plentiful food availability. Reduced intra-specific competition in the species mixture combined with greater adsorption efficiency and differences in feeding behaviour likely explain the dominant use of resources by B. lyrifera. © 2009 Godbold et al.
Godbold, J. A., Rosenberg, R., & Solan, M. (2009). Species-specific traits rather than resource partitioning mediate diversity effects on resource use. PLoS ONE, 4(10). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0007423