The dark side of the “redundancy hypothesis” and ecosystem assessment (2023)

Ecological Complexity

Volume 28,

December 2016

, Pages 222-229

Author links open overlay panel, rights and content


Intricacy of biotic interactions (predator-prey relationship, strength of food web links and other type of intra- and inter-specific relationships), as well as shifts in species functions in ecosystems, could affect the accuracy of predictions derived from the theory of redundancy of species, when applied to ecosystems assessment.

This opinion paper is based on three main considerations: 1) some fundamental differences between ecological and engineering definition of “redundancy”, underlying the main concerns related to the use frameworks derived from economical or engineering disciplines, as the ecosystems services paradigm; 2) presence of empirical obstacles to establish whether two different species are fully or partially redundant. When species redundancy in a particular community is estimated using a matrix with species-specific functional traits, often forgetting potential biotic interactions not directly related to the trophic chains or neglecting the variability in strengths of the links connecting these species; and 3) recent evidence offered by studies that shed doubts on the validity of the ecological redundancy hypothesis.

Finally, we claim that more attention must to be paid to intrinsic ecological aspects of ecosystem components (per se values rather than derived values), and a precautionary principle is necessary for decisions related to the assessment of ecosystems.

Section snippets

Ecological complexity: not only a question of numbers

In this note, we underline some issues related to the use (and abuse) of a framework derived from disciplines such as economics or engineering, in ecological studies. We highlight how the complexity of biotic interactions could make the predictions derived from the theory of redundancy less effective (Walker, 1992), when applied to ecosystem assessment. We claim that more attention must to be paid to the intrinsic ecological aspects of ecosystem components (per se values rather than derived

Diversity and ecosystems stability: persistence, resistance and resilience

The relationship between diversity and stability of ecosystems has fascinated ecologists for many years (Borrelli et al., 2015, McCann, 2000, Namba, 2015, Schleuning et al., 2015). The diversity-stability-hypothesis has a long history from its initial proposition (Elton, 1958, MacArthur, 1955, Odum, 1953), with a temporary disappearance of consensus (May, 1973), to more recent evidence suggesting that diversity begets stability (Kinzig et al., 2002, McCann, 2000). Currently, more evidence

Ecological redundancy: is there an “insurance” for ecosystem services?

In ecosystem assessments, ecological redundancy is defined as functional compensation due to different drivers (species or organism) performing similar functions in an ecosystem (Walker, 1992). In this way, particular species can cause aggregate stability in an ecosystem, enhancing ecosystem “resilience”. In a given assemblage, the loss of a few ecologically unique species is expected to have a larger ecological impact than the loss of species sharing very similar functional traits (

Are species replaceable like gears?

Some researchers recently focused on the relationships between functional redundancy and functional diversity, developing several indices useful for studying communities (de Bello et al., 2007, Petchey et al., 2007). The functional diversity within each species assemblage is assessed based on the functional traits of the species present and the combination of functional traits values in the community (Maire et al., 2015, Petchey and Gaston, 2006). The same species traits are the elements used

Engineering redundancy vs. ecological redundancy: so close, so far away

Some recent studies showed how living organisms and life in general can be conceived as an integrated information processing system (Farnsworth et al., 2013). Traditionally, biotic systems are considered more complex than abiotic counterpart, with more predictable interactions among components. However, also engineered − or abiotic − systems could become complex. Some researchers argue that the critical difference between abiotic complex systems and biotic ones is the phenomenon of downward

Final considerations

In summary, a limited approach, as suggested by the assessment of species redundancy focusing only on species traits or function traits (currently the most used approach), neglecting or minimizing the importance of interaction strengths in food webs, multiple-interactions (Møller, 2008) or even other types of biotic interactions, can constitute further evidence of a too anthropocentric approach (science is made by humans, after all), but capable of distorting the vision or paradigm on which


We thank A. P. Møller, M. Moretti, Y. Benedetti and L. Brotons for their valuable contributions during the writing of this manuscript. We are also grateful to J. Kolasa and the anonymous reviewers for their important suggestions, that were very useful in order to clarify difficult concepts. Finally, we are very grateful to the prof. Emma Nelson, University of Liverpool, for the final English proof reading service.

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    What is the redundancy effect in ecosystem function? ›

    The concept of functional redundancy implies that species loss is compensated by other species contributing similarly to functioning. Functional redundancy can be revealed by the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning (e.g., biomass growth).

    What is the redundancy hypothesis in biodiversity? ›

    The redundancy hypothesis predicts that the species redundancy in a plant community enhances community stability. However, numerous studies in recent years questioned the positive correlation between redundancy and stability.

    How does redundancy lead to stability in an ecosystem? ›

    Higher functional redundancy therefore provides a form of insurance against stochastic population fluctuations or species loss, resulting in stability in community structure or ecosystem function. Stability can be realized as either resistance to change or resilience in recovering from disturbance.

    What is the concept of ecosystem assessment? ›

    Ecosystem assessment takes many forms, but most commonly it involves documenting factors that affect the health and functioning of natural ecosystems. This could include documenting how much of an ecosystem type has been converted to intensive land uses; like for agriculture or urban development.

    What are the negative effects of redundancy? ›

    Whether expected or sudden, redundancy can cause huge uncertainty, stress and anxiety, and can make existing mental health problems worse. On this page, you'll find some ways to look after your mental health during the redundancy process.

    What is the problem of redundancy problem? ›

    In international finance, the redundancy problem, also known as the n − 1 problem, is a problem of inequality of the number of policy instruments and the number of targets at the international level, suggested by Robert Mundell in Robert Mundell (1969).

    How is the redundancy beneficial to organisms? ›

    Gene redundancy may increase gene expression level. The process of gene duplication has an immediate effect on gene dosage and this feature can be beneficial for the organism, which in turn drives the conservation of functionally overlapping pairs of genes.

    Why is redundancy important in biology? ›

    Pathway redundancy is common across all life and evolved to protect against perturbations that could disrupt vital processes, such as mutations and environmental changes.

    What does redundancy mean in environment? ›

    A redundant environment is one in which there is no single point of failure. The second OpenSwitch server protects the replication environment from the failure of the first OpenSwitch server by assuming control of the failover sequence in case the subsequent active database fails or Replication Server fails.

    What is the main weakness of redundancy in a system? ›

    Data Redundancy Disadvantages

    Allows for data corruption caused by damage or errors sustained during the process of storage and transfer of data across multiple locations. Increases data maintenance costs by requiring multiple copies of the same content to be maintained with costly data management programs.

    Which of the following problems occur because of redundancy? ›

    Redundancy causes insertion, deletion, and updation anomalies. Redundancy can be avoided by normalizing the database, maintaining master data, etc.

    Is redundancy causing stress? ›

    Experiencing a redundancy can be a deeply personal and emotionally challenging experience that can significantly impact your mental health. It can involve multiple blows such as the loss of income, status, daily routine, social support, self-esteem, and identity.

    What are the components of ecosystem assessment? ›

    Ecosystem Assessment
    • Ecosystem Function.
    • Natural Capital.
    • Provisioning Service.
    • Biodiversity.
    • Ecodevelopment.

    What is the goal of ecosystem analysis? ›

    The immediate goal of ecosystem analysis studies is to understand ecosystems and ecosystem processes ; many of these goals are directly related to such applied problems as organic matter production or the influence of management practices on various ecosystem parameters.

    What is the importance of carrying out an ecosystem assessment and management? ›

    It analyses the effects of climate change, for example, on ecosystems and on their ability to provide people with the goods that they are used to. Thereby, it gives decision makers the information they need to improve the conservation and sustainable use of ecosystems and to minimize negative impacts of water use.

    Why redundancy should be avoided? ›

    Redundancy is the enemy of clear and concise writing. It results in poor flow and impedes understanding, and it might be keeping you from writing effective technical reports. Utilize these three simple tips to eliminate redundancy from your writing: leave out unnecessary words, avoid repetition, and be direct.

    What are examples of redundancy effect? ›

    Examples of the Redundancy Effect include: Too many words on a PowerPoint slide. Excessive PowerPoint animations. The teacher talking about something else whilst students do a task.

    How can redundancy affect you socially? ›

    Although losing your job isn't always a negative event, for some people it can bring up feelings of rejection, low self-esteem and loss. Feeling less productive and a loss of social contact can also leave people feeling isolated.

    Is redundancy a bad thing in terms of the Internet Why or why not? ›

    Redundancy is a good thing, in case some routers fail because then packets will be rerouted and still successfully send. It is a method for ensuring network availability in case of a network device or path failure and unavailability.

    What is an error of redundancy? ›

    Redundancy means that the same data has been repeated twice, but just by using different words. The sentences which have redundant data don't necessarily mean are grammatically incorrect, but they have unnecessary words, which need to be avoided at all costs.

    What are the advantages and disadvantages of redundancy? ›

    There are many benefits to your company of offering voluntary redundancy:
    • Cost savings. ...
    • Avoiding compulsory redundancies. ...
    • More positive for morale. ...
    • You risk losing the best employees. ...
    • Higher costs. ...
    • Risk of discrimination claims. ...
    • Negative effect on those not selected.
    Feb 15, 2021

    What is an example of redundancy in biology? ›

    Redundancy—Biology's Contingency Plan

    Genetic redundancy describes two copies of the same gene whereby the protein encoded by one can function in place of the other. A classic example of genetic redundancy occurs in metabolism, where two genes encode proteins that catalyze the same reaction (Toda et al., 1987).

    What is the advantage or benefit of redundant genes? ›

    The Selective Advantage of Redundancy

    From an evolutionary perspective, redundancy is thought to buffer phenotypes from genomic variations by reducing the phenotypic cost of mutations, consequently increasing an organism's ability to evolve (evolvability) (Kirschner and Gerhart, 2005).

    What does redundancy mean in biology? ›

    Abstract. Genetic redundancy means that two or more genes are performing the same function and that inactivation of one of these genes has little or no effect on the biological phenotype.

    What does redundancy mean and what is it important? ›

    Redundancy is an engineering term which means “the duplication of critical components or functions of a system with the intention of increasing reliability of the system, usually in the form of a backup or fail-safe, or to improve actual system performance”

    What do you mean by redundancy how this can be avoided? ›

    It is a process in which data is efficiently organized in a database so that duplication can be avoided. It ensures that the data across all the records provide a similar look and can be read in a particular manner.

    How do you overcome redundancy? ›

    Dealing with redundancy
    1. keep calm.
    2. stay positive, see redundancy as an opportunity for change.
    3. focus on moving on, rather than looking back.
    4. take stock of your situation and look at your options.
    5. get advice from professional advisers.
    6. talk to your friends and family.

    What are the 5 fair reasons for redundancy? ›

    What Are Fair Reasons for Redundancy?
    • The Work is No Longer Needed. ...
    • New Processes Have Been Introduced. ...
    • Other Employees Are Completing the Work. ...
    • The Business is Closing. ...
    • The Business is Relocating. ...
    • Automatically Unfair Reasons for Redundancy.

    How does redundancy cause depression? ›

    When you let go of your job and start to think about the future, you may feel an initial period of depression when the reality sets in. You may experience a sense of loss from your job – even if it was a job that you didn't enjoy. This can lead to feelings of sadness, which can sometimes feel intense.

    What is ecosystem risk assessment? ›

    Ecological Risk Assessment (EcoRA) involves the assessment of the risks posed by the presence of substances released to the environment by man, in theory, on all living organisms in the variety of ecosystems which make up the environment.

    What is vulnerability assessment of ecosystem? ›

    Ecological vulnerability assessment is a useful tool to help decision makers understand the various impacts of natural and factitious elements on eco-system. Under this circumstance, evaluating the ecological vulnerability is necessary to make implications for ecological conservation and environmental management.

    What are the 3 main components of an ecosystem? ›

    Ecosystems have lots of different living organisms that interact with each other. The living organisms in an ecosystem can be divided into three categories: producers, consumers and decomposers. They are all important parts of an ecosystem.

    What are the 4 goals of ecosystem management? ›

    Advocates glowingly describe ecosystem management as an approach that will protect the environment, maintain healthy ecosystems, preserve biological diversity, and ensure sustainable development.

    What is the conclusion of ecosystem? ›

    Ecosystems are created by the interrelationships between living organisms and the physical environments they inhabit (land, water, air). Ecosystems require a source of energy to make them work and for most, although not all, this is light from the sun.

    What are the benefits of ecosystem valuation? ›

    Ecosystem valuation can help resource managers deal with the effects of market failures, by measuring their costs to society, in terms of lost economic benefits.

    What should we do to improve ecosystem management? ›

    To achieve these goals, ecosystem managers can be appointed to balance natural resource extraction and conservation over a long-term timeframe. Partnerships between ecosystem managers, natural resource managers, and stakeholders should be encouraged in order to promote the sustainable use of limited natural resources.

    Why is it crucial to understand the carrying capacity of an ecosystem? ›

    If a population exceeds carrying capacity, the ecosystem may become unsuitable for the species to survive. If the population exceeds the carrying capacity for a long period of time, resources may be completely depleted. Populations may die off if all of the resources are exhausted.

    Why is monitoring ecosystem changes important? ›

    It is important to monitor the natural environment in order to document how crucial characteristics of nature changes over time, both due to natural and man-made influences. NINA monitors both wildlife and ecosystems and contributes to the knowledge base for more sustainable management of nature.

    What is redundancy in ecology? ›

    Redundancy hypothesis refer to the enhancement of species that can compensate each other if some species loss due to harsh conditions such particular species has the ability to recover from environmental disturbances.

    What is redundancy in protein function? ›

    Genetic redundancy describes two copies of the same gene whereby the protein encoded by one can function in place of the other. A classic example of genetic redundancy occurs in metabolism, where two genes encode proteins that catalyze the same reaction (Toda et al., 1987).

    What is an example of functional redundancy in ecology? ›

    Second, we used measures of functional redundancy, which can be defined as the number of species performing similar roles in an ecosystem, for example nutrient cycling, sediment fixation or climate regulation.

    Is redundancy a good or bad thing and why? ›

    Is data redundancy good or bad? Depending on the application, data redundancy can be both advantageous and damaging. On the one hand, data redundancy can increase the data's reliability and availability by providing many copies that can be used if one copy becomes unavailable or lost.

    What is redundancy and why is it important? ›

    Data redundancy is a common approach to improve the reliability and availability of a system. Adding redundancy increases the cost and complexity of designing a system. However, the rule to follow is that if the cost of failure is high enough, redundancy is an attractive option.

    What are examples of redundancy in systems? ›

    Redundancy in IT systems means having the ability to duplicate your system components, whether on hardware, VMs, or the cloud. At the user level, a simple example is making a copy of the user's PC system and storing it on another PC as a spare in case the user's PC fails.

    How does gene redundancy affect organisms? ›

    Genetic redundancy is potentially of great relevance to organismal evolution, since it may (i) 'protect' organisms from potentially harmful mutations, and (ii) maintain pools of functionally similar, yet diverse gene products, and thus represent a source of evolutionary novelty at the biochemical level.

    How do functions eliminate redundancy? ›

    Besides simplifying long sections of code, functions are also regularly used to reduce redundancy in code, similar to loops. Using functions, we can take code that is repeated in multiple locations, and keep it in one centralized location.

    What is redundancy of the genetic code in biology? ›

    Redundancy in the genetic code means that most amino acids are specified by more than one mRNA codon. For example, the amino acid phenylalanine (Phe) is specified by the codons UUU and UUC, and the amino acid leucine (Leu) is specified by the codons CUU, CUC, CUA, and CUG.

    What are the 5 types of redundancy? ›

    What is redundancy, you might ask. Well, the act of using a word, phrase, etc., that repeats something else and is therefore unnecessary. The five most common types of redundancy are: the pleonasm, redundant abbreviations, intensifiers, plague words, and platitudes and cliches.

    What are examples of redundancy in the real world? ›

    Your GPS system is an example of an active redundancy system, so if you get lost, your GPS already has a route home. Another example might be a backup generator in a hospital, where life-saving equipment is kept on and functioning during power outages or natural disasters.

    What is the difference between functional redundancy and functional diversity? ›

    In this trait space, we examine the global patterns of functional diversity (the range of unique trait combinations) and functional redundancy (the number of species sharing similar sets of traits), testing the relationship of each with species richness.


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