Community Ecology


, Volume 143, Issue 4, pp 607-618

First online:

Diversity and productivity of plant communities across the Inland Northwest, USA

  • Michael D. JenningsAffiliated withNational Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis/Donald Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, University of CaliforniaThe Nature Conservancy, Global Priorities Group, University of Idaho, Department of Geography Email author 
  • , John W. WilliamsAffiliated withNational Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, University of CaliforniaDepartment of Geography, University of Wisconsin
  • , Mark R. StrombergAffiliated withHastings Natural History Reservation, Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, University of California

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No definitive explanation for the form of the relationship between species diversity and ecosystem productivity exists nor is there agreement on the mechanisms linking diversity and productivity across scales. Here, we examine changes in the form of the diversity–productivity relationship within and across the plant communities at three observational scales: plots, alliances, and physiognomic vegetation types (PVTs). Vascular plant richness data are from 4,760 20 m2 vegetation field plots. Productivity estimates in grams carbon per square meter are from annual net primary productivity (ANPP) models. Analyses with generalized linear models confirm scale dependence in the species diversity–productivity relationship. At the plot focus, the observed diversity–productivity relationship was weak. When plot data were aggregated to a focus of vegetation alliances, a hump-shaped relationship was observed. Species turnover among plots cannot explain the observed hump-shaped relationship at the alliance focus because we used mean plot richness across plots as our index of species richness for alliances and PVTs. The sorting of alliances along the productivity gradient appears to follow regional patterns of moisture availability, with alliances that occupy dry environments occurring within the increasing phase of the hump-shaped pattern, alliances that occupy mesic to hydric environments occurring near the top or in the decreasing phase of the curve, and alliances that occupy the wettest environments having the fewest species and the highest ANPP. This pattern is consistent with the intermediate productivity theory but appears to be inconsistent with the predictions of water–energy theory.


Biodiversity Primary productivity Community ecology GLM