Publications by authors named "Yann Hautier"

38 Publications

Diversity and asynchrony in soil microbial communities stabilizes ecosystem functioning.

Elife 2021 03 23;10. Epub 2021 Mar 23.

Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies, University of Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland.

Theoretical and empirical advances have revealed the importance of biodiversity for stabilizing ecosystem functions through time. Despite the global degradation of soils, whether the loss of soil microbial diversity can destabilize ecosystem functioning is poorly understood. Here, we experimentally quantified the contribution of soil fungal and bacterial communities to the temporal stability of four key ecosystem functions related to biogeochemical cycling. Microbial diversity enhanced the temporal stability of all ecosystem functions and this pattern was particularly strong in plant-soil mesocosms with reduced microbial richness where over 50% of microbial taxa were lost. The stabilizing effect of soil biodiversity was linked to asynchrony among microbial taxa whereby different soil fungi and bacteria promoted different ecosystem functions at different times. Our results emphasize the need to conserve soil biodiversity for the provisioning of multiple ecosystem functions that soils provide to the society.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.62813DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7987343PMC
March 2021

Suppression of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi decreases the temporal stability of community productivity under elevated temperature and nitrogen addition in a temperate meadow.

Sci Total Environ 2021 Mar 16;762:143137. Epub 2020 Oct 16.

Institute of Gerassland Science, Northeast Normal University, Key Laboratory of Vegetation Ecology, Ministry of Education, Changchun 130024, China. Electronic address:

Global change alters how terrestrial ecosystems function and makes them less stable over time. Global change can also suppress the development and effectiveness of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF). This is concerning, as AMF have been shown to alleviate the negative influence of global changes on plant growth and maintain species coexistence. However, how AMF and global change interact and influence community temporal stability remains poorly understood. Here, we conducted a 4-year field experiment and used structural equation modeling (SEM) to explore the influence of elevated temperature, nitrogen (N) addition and AMF suppression on community temporal stability (quantified as the ratio of the mean community productivity to its standard deviation) in a temperate meadow in northern China. We found that elevated temperature and AMF suppression independently decreased the community temporal stability but that N addition had no impact. Community temporal stability was mainly driven by elevated temperature, N addition and AMF suppression that modulated the dominant species stability; to a lesser extent by the elevated temperature and AMF suppression that modulated AMF richness associated with community asynchrony; and finally by the N addition and AMF suppression that modulated mycorrhizal colonization. In addition, although N addition, AMF suppression and elevated temperature plus AMF suppression reduced plant species richness, there was no evidence that changes in community temporal stability were linked to changes in plant richness. SEM further showed that elevated temperature, N addition and AMF suppression regulated community temporal stability by influencing both the temporal mean and variation in community productivity. Our results suggest that global environmental changes may have appreciable consequences for the stability of temperate meadows while also highlighting the role of belowground AMF status in the responses of plant community temporal stability to global change.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.143137DOI Listing
March 2021

General destabilizing effects of eutrophication on grassland productivity at multiple spatial scales.

Nat Commun 2020 10 23;11(1):5375. Epub 2020 Oct 23.

Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, University of MN, St. Paul, MN, 55108, USA.

Eutrophication is a widespread environmental change that usually reduces the stabilizing effect of plant diversity on productivity in local communities. Whether this effect is scale dependent remains to be elucidated. Here, we determine the relationship between plant diversity and temporal stability of productivity for 243 plant communities from 42 grasslands across the globe and quantify the effect of chronic fertilization on these relationships. Unfertilized local communities with more plant species exhibit greater asynchronous dynamics among species in response to natural environmental fluctuations, resulting in greater local stability (alpha stability). Moreover, neighborhood communities that have greater spatial variation in plant species composition within sites (higher beta diversity) have greater spatial asynchrony of productivity among communities, resulting in greater stability at the larger scale (gamma stability). Importantly, fertilization consistently weakens the contribution of plant diversity to both of these stabilizing mechanisms, thus diminishing the positive effect of biodiversity on stability at differing spatial scales. Our findings suggest that preserving grassland functional stability requires conservation of plant diversity within and among ecological communities.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-19252-4DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7585434PMC
October 2020

Increasing effects of chronic nutrient enrichment on plant diversity loss and ecosystem productivity over time.

Ecology 2021 02 18;102(2):e03218. Epub 2021 Jan 18.

Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota, 55108, USA.

Human activities are enriching many of Earth's ecosystems with biologically limiting mineral nutrients such as nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P). In grasslands, this enrichment generally reduces plant diversity and increases productivity. The widely demonstrated positive effect of diversity on productivity suggests a potential negative feedback, whereby nutrient-induced declines in diversity reduce the initial gains in productivity arising from nutrient enrichment. In addition, plant productivity and diversity can be inhibited by accumulations of dead biomass, which may be altered by nutrient enrichment. Over longer time frames, nutrient addition may increase soil fertility by increasing soil organic matter and nutrient pools. We examined the effects of 5-11 yr of nutrient addition at 47 grasslands in 12 countries. Nutrient enrichment increased aboveground live biomass and reduced plant diversity at nearly all sites, and these effects became stronger over time. We did not find evidence that nutrient-induced losses of diversity reduced the positive effects of nutrients on biomass; however, nutrient effects on live biomass increased more slowly at sites where litter was also increasing, regardless of plant diversity. This work suggests that short-term experiments may underestimate the long-term nutrient enrichment effects on global grassland ecosystems.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ecy.3218DOI Listing
February 2021

Fast and furious: Early differences in growth rate drive short-term plant dominance and exclusion under eutrophication.

Ecol Evol 2020 Sep 9;10(18):10116-10129. Epub 2020 Sep 9.

Ecology and Biodiversity Group Department of Biology Utrecht University Utrecht The Netherlands.

The reduction of plant diversity following eutrophication threatens many ecosystems worldwide. Yet, the mechanisms by which species are lost following nutrient enrichment are still not completely understood, nor are the details of when such mechanisms act during the growing season, which hampers understanding and the development of mitigation strategies.Using a common garden competition experiment, we found that early-season differences in growth rates among five perennial grass species measured in monoculture predicted short-term competitive dominance in pairwise combinations and that the proportion of variance explained was particularly greater under a fertilization treatment.We also examined the role of early-season growth rate in determining the outcome of competition along an experimental nutrient gradient in an alpine meadow. Early differences in growth rate between species predicted short-term competitive dominance under both ambient and fertilized conditions and competitive exclusion under fertilized conditions.The results of these two studies suggest that plant species growing faster during the early stage of the growing season gain a competitive advantage over species that initially grow more slowly, and that this advantage is magnified under fertilization. This finding is consistent with the theory of asymmetric competition for light in which fast-growing species can intercept incident light and hence outcompete and exclude slower-growing (and hence shorter) species. We predict that the current chronic nutrient inputs into many terrestrial ecosystems worldwide will reduce plant diversity and maintain a low biodiversity state by continuously favoring fast-growing species. Biodiversity management strategies should focus on controlling nutrient inputs and reducing the growth of fast-growing species early in the season.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ece3.6673DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7520198PMC
September 2020

A landscape-scale assessment of the relationship between grassland functioning, community diversity, and functional traits.

Ecol Evol 2020 Sep 16;10(18):9906-9919. Epub 2020 Aug 16.

Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL Birmensdorf Switzerland.

Livestock farmers rely on a high and stable grassland productivity for fodder production to sustain their livelihoods. Future drought events related to climate change, however, threaten grassland functionality in many regions across the globe. The introduction of sustainable grassland management could buffer these negative effects. According to the biodiversity-productivity hypothesis, productivity positively associates with local biodiversity. The biodiversity-insurance hypothesis states that higher biodiversity enhances the temporal stability of productivity. To date, these hypotheses have mostly been tested through experimental studies under restricted environmental conditions, hereby neglecting climatic variations at a landscape-scale. Here, we provide a landscape-scale assessment of the contribution of species richness, functional composition, temperature, and precipitation on grassland productivity. We found that the variation in grassland productivity during the growing season was best explained by functional trait composition. The community mean of plant preference for nutrients explained 24.8% of the variation in productivity and the community mean of specific leaf area explained 18.6%, while species richness explained only 2.4%. Temperature and precipitation explained an additional 22.1% of the variation in productivity. Our results indicate that functional trait composition is an important predictor of landscape-scale grassland productivity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ece3.6650DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7520175PMC
September 2020

Resource-enhancing global changes drive a whole-ecosystem shift to faster cycling but decrease diversity.

Ecology 2020 12 1;101(12):e03178. Epub 2020 Oct 1.

Ecology and Biodiversity Group, Department of Biology, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands.

Many global changes take the form of resource enhancements that have potential to transform multiple aspects of ecosystems from slower to faster cycling, including a suite of both above- and belowground variables. We developed a novel analytic approach to measure integrated ecosystem responses to resource-enhancing global changes, and how such whole ecosystem slow-to-fast transitions are linked to diversity and exotic invasions in real-world ecosystems. We asked how 5-yr experimental rainfall and nutrient enhancements in a natural grassland system affected 16 ecosystem functions, pools, and stoichiometry variables considered to indicate slow vs. fast cycling. We combined these metrics into a novel index we termed "slow-fast multifunctionality" and assessed its relationship to plant community diversity and exotic plant dominance. Nutrient and rainfall addition interacted to affect average slow-fast multifunctionality. Nutrient addition alone pushed the system toward faster cycling, but this effect weakened with the joint addition of rainfall and nutrients. Variables associated with soil nutrient pools and cycling most strongly contributed to this antagonistic interaction. Nutrient and water addition together, respectively, had additive or synergistic effects on plant trait composition and productivity, demonstrating divergence of above- and belowground ecosystem responses. Our novel metric of faster cycling was strongly associated with decreased plant species richness and increased exotic species dominance. These results demonstrate the breadth of interacting community and ecosystem changes that ensue when resource limitation is relaxed.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ecy.3178DOI Listing
December 2020

Nutrient availability controls the impact of mammalian herbivores on soil carbon and nitrogen pools in grasslands.

Glob Chang Biol 2020 Feb 3. Epub 2020 Feb 3.

Department of Terrestrial Ecology, Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW), Wageningen, The Netherlands.

Grasslands are subject to considerable alteration due to human activities globally, including widespread changes in populations and composition of large mammalian herbivores and elevated supply of nutrients. Grassland soils remain important reservoirs of carbon (C) and nitrogen (N). Herbivores may affect both C and N pools and these changes likely interact with increases in soil nutrient availability. Given the scale of grassland soil fluxes, such changes can have striking consequences for atmospheric C concentrations and the climate. Here, we use the Nutrient Network experiment to examine the responses of soil C and N pools to mammalian herbivore exclusion across 22 grasslands, under ambient and elevated nutrient availabilities (fertilized with NPK + micronutrients). We show that the impact of herbivore exclusion on soil C and N pools depends on fertilization. Under ambient nutrient conditions, we observed no effect of herbivore exclusion, but under elevated nutrient supply, pools are smaller upon herbivore exclusion. The highest mean soil C and N pools were found in grazed and fertilized plots. The decrease in soil C and N upon herbivore exclusion in combination with fertilization correlated with a decrease in aboveground plant biomass and microbial activity, indicating a reduced storage of organic matter and microbial residues as soil C and N. The response of soil C and N pools to herbivore exclusion was contingent on temperature - herbivores likely cause losses of C and N in colder sites and increases in warmer sites. Additionally, grasslands that contain mammalian herbivores have the potential to sequester more N under increased temperature variability and nutrient enrichment than ungrazed grasslands. Our study highlights the importance of conserving mammalian herbivore populations in grasslands worldwide. We need to incorporate local-scale herbivory, and its interaction with nutrient enrichment and climate, within global-scale models to better predict land-atmosphere interactions under future climate change.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/gcb.15023DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7155038PMC
February 2020

Leaf nutrients, not specific leaf area, are consistent indicators of elevated nutrient inputs.

Nat Ecol Evol 2019 03 4;3(3):400-406. Epub 2019 Feb 4.

Forest Research Centre, School of Agriculture, University of Lisbon, Lisbon, Portugal.

Leaf traits are frequently measured in ecology to provide a 'common currency' for predicting how anthropogenic pressures impact ecosystem function. Here, we test whether leaf traits consistently respond to experimental treatments across 27 globally distributed grassland sites across 4 continents. We find that specific leaf area (leaf area per unit mass)-a commonly measured morphological trait inferring shifts between plant growth strategies-did not respond to up to four years of soil nutrient additions. Leaf nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium concentrations increased in response to the addition of each respective soil nutrient. We found few significant changes in leaf traits when vertebrate herbivores were excluded in the short-term. Leaf nitrogen and potassium concentrations were positively correlated with species turnover, suggesting that interspecific trait variation was a significant predictor of leaf nitrogen and potassium, but not of leaf phosphorus concentration. Climatic conditions and pretreatment soil nutrient levels also accounted for significant amounts of variation in the leaf traits measured. Overall, we find that leaf morphological traits, such as specific leaf area, are not appropriate indicators of plant response to anthropogenic perturbations in grasslands.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41559-018-0790-1DOI Listing
March 2019

The importance of competition for light depends on productivity and disturbance.

Ecol Evol 2018 Nov 26;8(22):10655-10661. Epub 2018 Oct 26.

Department of Plant Sciences University of Oxford Oxford UK.

Eutrophication is a major cause of biodiversity loss. In grasslands, this appears to occur due to asymmetric competition for light following the increases in aboveground biomass production. Here, we report the results of an experiment with five grass species that tests how well-competitive outcomes can be predicted under a factorial combination of fertilized and disturbed (frequent cutting) conditions. Under fertile conditions, our results confirm earlier success in predicting short-term competitive outcomes based on light interception in monocultures. This effect was maintained but weakened under less fertile conditions with competition becoming more symmetric. However, under disturbed conditions, competitive outcomes could not be predicted from differences in light interception in monocultures regardless of fertility. Our results support the idea that competition in grasslands shifts from symmetric to asymmetric as fertility increases but that disturbance destroys this relationship, presumably by preventing the development of differences in canopy structure and reducing competition for light.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ece3.4403DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6262729PMC
November 2018

Multiple facets of biodiversity drive the diversity-stability relationship.

Nat Ecol Evol 2018 10 27;2(10):1579-1587. Epub 2018 Aug 27.

Department of Forest Resources, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN, USA.

A substantial body of evidence has demonstrated that biodiversity stabilizes ecosystem functioning over time in grassland ecosystems. However, the relative importance of different facets of biodiversity underlying the diversity-stability relationship remains unclear. Here we use data from 39 grassland biodiversity experiments and structural equation modelling to investigate the roles of species richness, phylogenetic diversity and both the diversity and community-weighted mean of functional traits representing the 'fast-slow' leaf economics spectrum in driving the diversity-stability relationship. We found that high species richness and phylogenetic diversity stabilize biomass production via enhanced asynchrony in the performance of co-occurring species. Contrary to expectations, low phylogenetic diversity enhances ecosystem stability directly, albeit weakly. While the diversity of fast-slow functional traits has a weak effect on ecosystem stability, communities dominated by slow species enhance ecosystem stability by increasing mean biomass production relative to the standard deviation of biomass over time. Our in-depth, integrative assessment of factors influencing the diversity-stability relationship demonstrates a more multicausal relationship than has been previously acknowledged.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41559-018-0647-7DOI Listing
October 2018

Spatial heterogeneity in species composition constrains plant community responses to herbivory and fertilisation.

Ecol Lett 2018 09 27;21(9):1364-1371. Epub 2018 Jun 27.

Department of Biology, Duke University, Durham, NC, 27708, USA.

Environmental change can result in substantial shifts in community composition. The associated immigration and extinction events are likely constrained by the spatial distribution of species. Still, studies on environmental change typically quantify biotic responses at single spatial (time series within a single plot) or temporal (spatial beta diversity at single time points) scales, ignoring their potential interdependence. Here, we use data from a global network of grassland experiments to determine how turnover responses to two major forms of environmental change - fertilisation and herbivore loss - are affected by species pool size and spatial compositional heterogeneity. Fertilisation led to higher rates of local extinction, whereas turnover in herbivore exclusion plots was driven by species replacement. Overall, sites with more spatially heterogeneous composition showed significantly higher rates of annual turnover, independent of species pool size and treatment. Taking into account spatial biodiversity aspects will therefore improve our understanding of consequences of global and anthropogenic change on community dynamics.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/ele.13102DOI Listing
September 2018

Local loss and spatial homogenization of plant diversity reduce ecosystem multifunctionality.

Nat Ecol Evol 2018 Jan 4;2(1):50-56. Epub 2017 Dec 4.

Department of Plant & Soil Sciences, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, 40546-0091, USA.

Biodiversity is declining in many local communities while also becoming increasingly homogenized across space. Experiments show that local plant species loss reduces ecosystem functioning and services, but the role of spatial homogenization of community composition and the potential interaction between diversity at different scales in maintaining ecosystem functioning remains unclear, especially when many functions are considered (ecosystem multifunctionality). We present an analysis of eight ecosystem functions measured in 65 grasslands worldwide. We find that more diverse grasslands-those with both species-rich local communities (α-diversity) and large compositional differences among localities (β-diversity)-had higher levels of multifunctionality. Moreover, α- and β-diversity synergistically affected multifunctionality, with higher levels of diversity at one scale amplifying the contribution to ecological functions at the other scale. The identity of species influencing ecosystem functioning differed among functions and across local communities, explaining why more diverse grasslands maintained greater functionality when more functions and localities were considered. These results were robust to variation in environmental drivers. Our findings reveal that plant diversity, at both local and landscape scales, contributes to the maintenance of multiple ecosystem services provided by grasslands. Preserving ecosystem functioning therefore requires conservation of biodiversity both within and among ecological communities.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41559-017-0395-0DOI Listing
January 2018

Food webs obscure the strength of plant diversity effects on primary productivity.

Ecol Lett 2017 Apr 10;20(4):505-512. Epub 2017 Mar 10.

Departments of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, University of MN, St. Paul, MN, USA.

Plant diversity experiments generally find that increased diversity causes increased productivity; however, primary productivity is typically measured in the presence of a diverse food web, including pathogens, mutualists and herbivores. If food web impacts on productivity vary with plant diversity, as predicted by both theoretical and empirical studies, estimates of the effect of plant diversity on productivity may be biased. We experimentally removed arthropods, foliar fungi and soil fungi from the longest-running plant diversity experiment. We found that fungi and arthropods removed a constant, large proportion of biomass leading to a greater reduction of total biomass in high diversity plots. As a result, the effect of diversity on measured plant productivity was much higher in the absence of fungi and arthropods. Thus, diversity increases productivity more than reported in previous studies that did not control for the effects of heterotrophic consumption.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/ele.12754DOI Listing
April 2017

Addition of multiple limiting resources reduces grassland diversity.

Nature 2016 09 24;537(7618):93-96. Epub 2016 Aug 24.

Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research, Community Ecology, Birmensdorf 8903, Switzerland.

Niche dimensionality provides a general theoretical explanation for biodiversity-more niches, defined by more limiting factors, allow for more ways that species can coexist. Because plant species compete for the same set of limiting resources, theory predicts that addition of a limiting resource eliminates potential trade-offs, reducing the number of species that can coexist. Multiple nutrient limitation of plant production is common and therefore fertilization may reduce diversity by reducing the number or dimensionality of belowground limiting factors. At the same time, nutrient addition, by increasing biomass, should ultimately shift competition from belowground nutrients towards a one-dimensional competitive trade-off for light. Here we show that plant species diversity decreased when a greater number of limiting nutrients were added across 45 grassland sites from a multi-continent experimental network. The number of added nutrients predicted diversity loss, even after controlling for effects of plant biomass, and even where biomass production was not nutrient-limited. We found that elevated resource supply reduced niche dimensionality and diversity and increased both productivity and compositional turnover. Our results point to the importance of understanding dimensionality in ecological systems that are undergoing diversity loss in response to multiple global change factors.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature19324DOI Listing
September 2016

Plant diversity effects on grassland productivity are robust to both nutrient enrichment and drought.

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 2016 05;371(1694)

Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, University of Minnesota Twin Cities, Saint Paul, MN 55108, USA.

Global change drivers are rapidly altering resource availability and biodiversity. While there is consensus that greater biodiversity increases the functioning of ecosystems, the extent to which biodiversity buffers ecosystem productivity in response to changes in resource availability remains unclear. We use data from 16 grassland experiments across North America and Europe that manipulated plant species richness and one of two essential resources-soil nutrients or water-to assess the direction and strength of the interaction between plant diversity and resource alteration on above-ground productivity and net biodiversity, complementarity, and selection effects. Despite strong increases in productivity with nutrient addition and decreases in productivity with drought, we found that resource alterations did not alter biodiversity-ecosystem functioning relationships. Our results suggest that these relationships are largely determined by increases in complementarity effects along plant species richness gradients. Although nutrient addition reduced complementarity effects at high diversity, this appears to be due to high biomass in monocultures under nutrient enrichment. Our results indicate that diversity and the complementarity of species are important regulators of grassland ecosystem productivity, regardless of changes in other drivers of ecosystem function.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2015.0277DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4843698PMC
May 2016

Comment on "Worldwide evidence of a unimodal relationship between productivity and plant species richness".

Science 2016 Jan;351(6272):457

Department of Ecology, Environment and Evolution, La Trobe University, Kingsbury Drive, Bundoora 3086, Victoria, Australia.

Fraser et al. (Reports, 17 July 2015, p. 302) report a unimodal relationship between productivity and species richness at regional and global scales, which they contrast with the results of Adler et al. (Reports, 23 September 2011, p. 1750). However, both data sets, when analyzed correctly, show clearly and consistently that productivity is a poor predictor of local species richness.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.aad6236DOI Listing
January 2016

Integrative modelling reveals mechanisms linking productivity and plant species richness.

Nature 2016 Jan 13;529(7586):390-3. Epub 2016 Jan 13.

Department of Biology, Colorado State University, 1878 Campus Delivery, Fort Collins, Colorado 80526, USA.

How ecosystem productivity and species richness are interrelated is one of the most debated subjects in the history of ecology. Decades of intensive study have yet to discern the actual mechanisms behind observed global patterns. Here, by integrating the predictions from multiple theories into a single model and using data from 1,126 grassland plots spanning five continents, we detect the clear signals of numerous underlying mechanisms linking productivity and richness. We find that an integrative model has substantially higher explanatory power than traditional bivariate analyses. In addition, the specific results unveil several surprising findings that conflict with classical models. These include the isolation of a strong and consistent enhancement of productivity by richness, an effect in striking contrast with superficial data patterns. Also revealed is a consistent importance of competition across the full range of productivity values, in direct conflict with some (but not all) proposed models. The promotion of local richness by macroecological gradients in climatic favourability, generally seen as a competing hypothesis, is also found to be important in our analysis. The results demonstrate that an integrative modelling approach leads to a major advance in our ability to discern the underlying processes operating in ecological systems.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature16524DOI Listing
January 2016

Biodiversity increases the resistance of ecosystem productivity to climate extremes.

Nature 2015 Oct 14;526(7574):574-7. Epub 2015 Oct 14.

Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, University of Minnesota Twin Cities, Saint Paul, Minnesota 55108, USA.

It remains unclear whether biodiversity buffers ecosystems against climate extremes, which are becoming increasingly frequent worldwide. Early results suggested that the ecosystem productivity of diverse grassland plant communities was more resistant, changing less during drought, and more resilient, recovering more quickly after drought, than that of depauperate communities. However, subsequent experimental tests produced mixed results. Here we use data from 46 experiments that manipulated grassland plant diversity to test whether biodiversity provides resistance during and resilience after climate events. We show that biodiversity increased ecosystem resistance for a broad range of climate events, including wet or dry, moderate or extreme, and brief or prolonged events. Across all studies and climate events, the productivity of low-diversity communities with one or two species changed by approximately 50% during climate events, whereas that of high-diversity communities with 16-32 species was more resistant, changing by only approximately 25%. By a year after each climate event, ecosystem productivity had often fully recovered, or overshot, normal levels of productivity in both high- and low-diversity communities, leading to no detectable dependence of ecosystem resilience on biodiversity. Our results suggest that biodiversity mainly stabilizes ecosystem productivity, and productivity-dependent ecosystem services, by increasing resistance to climate events. Anthropogenic environmental changes that drive biodiversity loss thus seem likely to decrease ecosystem stability, and restoration of biodiversity to increase it, mainly by changing the resistance of ecosystem productivity to climate events.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature15374DOI Listing
October 2015

Plant species' origin predicts dominance and response to nutrient enrichment and herbivores in global grasslands.

Nat Commun 2015 Jul 15;6:7710. Epub 2015 Jul 15.

Department of Entomology, University of Maryland, College Park Maryland 20742, USA.

Exotic species dominate many communities; however the functional significance of species' biogeographic origin remains highly contentious. This debate is fuelled in part by the lack of globally replicated, systematic data assessing the relationship between species provenance, function and response to perturbations. We examined the abundance of native and exotic plant species at 64 grasslands in 13 countries, and at a subset of the sites we experimentally tested native and exotic species responses to two fundamental drivers of invasion, mineral nutrient supplies and vertebrate herbivory. Exotic species are six times more likely to dominate communities than native species. Furthermore, while experimental nutrient addition increases the cover and richness of exotic species, nutrients decrease native diversity and cover. Native and exotic species also differ in their response to vertebrate consumer exclusion. These results suggest that species origin has functional significance, and that eutrophication will lead to increased exotic dominance in grasslands.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ncomms8710DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4518311PMC
July 2015

Abundance- and functional-based mechanisms of plant diversity loss with fertilization in the presence and absence of herbivores.

Oecologia 2015 Sep 14;179(1):261-70. Epub 2015 May 14.

State Key Laboratory of Grassland Agroecosystems, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou, 730000, China,

Nutrient supply and herbivores can regulate plant species composition, biodiversity and functioning of terrestrial ecosystems. Nutrient enrichment frequently increases plant productivity and decreases diversity while herbivores tend to maintain plant diversity in productive systems. However, the mechanisms by which nutrient enrichment and herbivores regulate plant diversity remain unclear. Abundance-based mechanisms propose that fertilization leads to the extinction of rare species due to random loss of individuals of all species. In contrast, functional-based mechanisms propose that species exclusion is based on functional traits which are disadvantageous under fertilized conditions. We tested mechanistic links between fertilization and diversity loss in the presence or absence of consumers using data from a 4-year fertilization and fencing experiment in an alpine meadow. We found that both abundance- and functional-based mechanisms simultaneously affected species loss in the absence of herbivores while only abundance-based mechanisms affected species loss in the presence of herbivores. Our results indicate that an abundance-based mechanism may consistently play a role in the loss of plant diversity with fertilization, and that diversity decline is driven primarily by the loss of rare species regardless of a plant's functional traits and whether or not herbivores are present. Increasing efforts to conserve rare species in the context of ecosystem eutrophication is a central challenge for grazed grassland ecosystems.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00442-015-3313-7DOI Listing
September 2015

Plant ecology. Anthropogenic environmental changes affect ecosystem stability via biodiversity.

Science 2015 Apr;348(6232):336-40

Department of Forest Resources, University of Minnesota, Saint Paul, MN 55108, USA. Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment, University of Western Sydney, Penrith, NSW 2753, Australia.

Human-driven environmental changes may simultaneously affect the biodiversity, productivity, and stability of Earth's ecosystems, but there is no consensus on the causal relationships linking these variables. Data from 12 multiyear experiments that manipulate important anthropogenic drivers, including plant diversity, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, fire, herbivory, and water, show that each driver influences ecosystem productivity. However, the stability of ecosystem productivity is only changed by those drivers that alter biodiversity, with a given decrease in plant species numbers leading to a quantitatively similar decrease in ecosystem stability regardless of which driver caused the biodiversity loss. These results suggest that changes in biodiversity caused by drivers of environmental change may be a major factor determining how global environmental changes affect ecosystem stability.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.aaa1788DOI Listing
April 2015

Grassland productivity limited by multiple nutrients.

Nat Plants 2015 Jul 6;1:15080. Epub 2015 Jul 6.

Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky 40546, USA.

Terrestrial ecosystem productivity is widely accepted to be nutrient limited(1). Although nitrogen (N) is deemed a key determinant of aboveground net primary production (ANPP)(2,3), the prevalence of co-limitation by N and phosphorus (P) is increasingly recognized(4-8). However, the extent to which terrestrial productivity is co-limited by nutrients other than N and P has remained unclear. Here, we report results from a standardized factorial nutrient addition experiment, in which we added N, P and potassium (K) combined with a selection of micronutrients (K+μ), alone or in concert, to 42 grassland sites spanning five continents, and monitored ANPP. Nutrient availability limited productivity at 31 of the 42 grassland sites. And pairwise combinations of N, P, and K+μ co-limited ANPP at 29 of the sites. Nitrogen limitation peaked in cool, high latitude sites. Our findings highlight the importance of less studied nutrients, such as K and micronutrients, for grassland productivity, and point to significant variations in the type and degree of nutrient limitation. We suggest that multiple-nutrient constraints must be considered when assessing the ecosystem-scale consequences of nutrient enrichment.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nplants.2015.80DOI Listing
July 2015

Plant diversity predicts beta but not alpha diversity of soil microbes across grasslands worldwide.

Ecol Lett 2015 Jan 28;18(1):85-95. Epub 2014 Nov 28.

CSIRO Land and Water Flagship, Private Bag 5, Wembley, WA, 6913, Australia.

Aboveground-belowground interactions exert critical controls on the composition and function of terrestrial ecosystems, yet the fundamental relationships between plant diversity and soil microbial diversity remain elusive. Theory predicts predominantly positive associations but tests within single sites have shown variable relationships, and associations between plant and microbial diversity across broad spatial scales remain largely unexplored. We compared the diversity of plant, bacterial, archaeal and fungal communities in one hundred and forty-five 1 m(2) plots across 25 temperate grassland sites from four continents. Across sites, the plant alpha diversity patterns were poorly related to those observed for any soil microbial group. However, plant beta diversity (compositional dissimilarity between sites) was significantly correlated with the beta diversity of bacterial and fungal communities, even after controlling for environmental factors. Thus, across a global range of temperate grasslands, plant diversity can predict patterns in the composition of soil microbial communities, but not patterns in alpha diversity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/ele.12381DOI Listing
January 2015

Herbivores and nutrients control grassland plant diversity via light limitation.

Nature 2014 Apr 9;508(7497):517-20. Epub 2014 Mar 9.

Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas y Costeras (IIMyC), Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET), Mar del Plata 7600 , Argentina.

Human alterations to nutrient cycles and herbivore communities are affecting global biodiversity dramatically. Ecological theory predicts these changes should be strongly counteractive: nutrient addition drives plant species loss through intensified competition for light, whereas herbivores prevent competitive exclusion by increasing ground-level light, particularly in productive systems. Here we use experimental data spanning a globally relevant range of conditions to test the hypothesis that herbaceous plant species losses caused by eutrophication may be offset by increased light availability due to herbivory. This experiment, replicated in 40 grasslands on 6 continents, demonstrates that nutrients and herbivores can serve as counteracting forces to control local plant diversity through light limitation, independent of site productivity, soil nitrogen, herbivore type and climate. Nutrient addition consistently reduced local diversity through light limitation, and herbivory rescued diversity at sites where it alleviated light limitation. Thus, species loss from anthropogenic eutrophication can be ameliorated in grasslands where herbivory increases ground-level light.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature13144DOI Listing
April 2014

Eutrophication weakens stabilizing effects of diversity in natural grasslands.

Nature 2014 Apr 16;508(7497):521-5. Epub 2014 Feb 16.

Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research, 8903 Birmensdorf, Switzerland.

Studies of experimental grassland communities have demonstrated that plant diversity can stabilize productivity through species asynchrony, in which decreases in the biomass of some species are compensated for by increases in others. However, it remains unknown whether these findings are relevant to natural ecosystems, especially those for which species diversity is threatened by anthropogenic global change. Here we analyse diversity-stability relationships from 41 grasslands on five continents and examine how these relationships are affected by chronic fertilization, one of the strongest drivers of species loss globally. Unmanipulated communities with more species had greater species asynchrony, resulting in more stable biomass production, generalizing a result from biodiversity experiments to real-world grasslands. However, fertilization weakened the positive effect of diversity on stability. Contrary to expectations, this was not due to species loss after eutrophication but rather to an increase in the temporal variation of productivity in combination with a decrease in species asynchrony in diverse communities. Our results demonstrate separate and synergistic effects of diversity and eutrophication on stability, emphasizing the need to understand how drivers of global change interactively affect the reliable provisioning of ecosystem services in real-world systems.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature13014DOI Listing
April 2014

Predicting invasion in grassland ecosystems: is exotic dominance the real embarrassment of richness?

Glob Chang Biol 2013 Dec 16;19(12):3677-87. Epub 2013 Oct 16.

Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, University of MN, St. Paul, MN, 55108, USA.

Invasions have increased the size of regional species pools, but are typically assumed to reduce native diversity. However, global-scale tests of this assumption have been elusive because of the focus on exotic species richness, rather than relative abundance. This is problematic because low invader richness can indicate invasion resistance by the native community or, alternatively, dominance by a single exotic species. Here, we used a globally replicated study to quantify relationships between exotic richness and abundance in grass-dominated ecosystems in 13 countries on six continents, ranging from salt marshes to alpine tundra. We tested effects of human land use, native community diversity, herbivore pressure, and nutrient limitation on exotic plant dominance. Despite its widespread use, exotic richness was a poor proxy for exotic dominance at low exotic richness, because sites that contained few exotic species ranged from relatively pristine (low exotic richness and cover) to almost completely exotic-dominated ones (low exotic richness but high exotic cover). Both exotic cover and richness were predicted by native plant diversity (native grass richness) and land use (distance to cultivation). Although climate was important for predicting both exotic cover and richness, climatic factors predicting cover (precipitation variability) differed from those predicting richness (maximum temperature and mean temperature in the wettest quarter). Herbivory and nutrient limitation did not predict exotic richness or cover. Exotic dominance was greatest in areas with low native grass richness at the site- or regional-scale. Although this could reflect native grass displacement, a lack of biotic resistance is a more likely explanation, given that grasses comprise the most aggressive invaders. These findings underscore the need to move beyond richness as a surrogate for the extent of invasion, because this metric confounds monodominance with invasion resistance. Monitoring species' relative abundance will more rapidly advance our understanding of invasions.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/gcb.12370DOI Listing
December 2013

Life-history constraints in grassland plant species: a growth-defence trade-off is the norm.

Ecol Lett 2013 Apr 24;16(4):513-21. Epub 2013 Jan 24.

Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN 55108, USA.

Plant growth can be limited by resource acquisition and defence against consumers, leading to contrasting trade-off possibilities. The competition-defence hypothesis posits a trade-off between competitive ability and defence against enemies (e.g. herbivores and pathogens). The growth-defence hypothesis suggests that strong competitors for nutrients are also defended against enemies, at a cost to growth rate. We tested these hypotheses using observations of 706 plant populations of over 500 species before and following identical fertilisation and fencing treatments at 39 grassland sites worldwide. Strong positive covariance in species responses to both treatments provided support for a growth-defence trade-off: populations that increased with the removal of nutrient limitation (poor competitors) also increased following removal of consumers. This result held globally across 4 years within plant life-history groups and within the majority of individual sites. Thus, a growth-defence trade-off appears to be the norm, and mechanisms maintaining grassland biodiversity may operate within this constraint.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/ele.12078DOI Listing
April 2013