Ecosystem Dis-functions

When ecosystem functions (EFs) are damaged or destroyed, the outcome is referred to as an ecosystem dis-function (EDF). While EF result in a positive feedback which supports biodiversity, biomass and response capacity, EDS generate negative feedback.

The response capacity of an ecosystem is its ability to carry out ecosystem processes (EP), from which EF and ES are derived (see earlier). In other words, it is how resilient an ecosystem is to changing conditions, such as temperature, rainfall, oxygen concentrations, atmospheric carbon concentrations, etc.

Causes of ecosystem dis-functions:


  • Pesticide application.

  • Pollution.


  • Some pathogens or insects can cause severe dis-functions, such as killing tree species and changing forest community structure as a consequence.

  • Some organisms produce one or more biochemicals that affect the survival, reproduction or growth of other species (i.e., allelopathy).

  • Some plants alter hydrological cycles and destroy freshwater ecosystems.

Examples of ecosystem dis-functions:

Kauri dieback disease produced by the soilborne pathogen Phytophtora species affecting kauri trees (Agathis australis (D.Don) Loudon) in New Zealand. Photo: Toby Ricketts.

Bark beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae Hopkins) damage in conifers (Pinus spp.) in the United States. Photo: Colorado State Forest Service.


Gillespie MAK and Wratten SD (2017). The role of ecosystem disservices in pest management. In Wajnberg E, Coll M (Eds). Environmental Pest Management: Challenges for Agronomists, Ecologists, Economists and Policymakers. Wiley. p. 175-194.

Von Dohren P and Haase D (2015). Ecosystem disservices research: a review of the stat of the art with a focus on cities. Ecological Indicators 52: 490-497.