Biodiversity is a multifaceted concept but most studies examining the association between the biodiversity of a community and its productivity focus only on species richness. Consequently, studies are needed to examine how other facets of biodiversity vary with productivity if we want to have a better understanding of the distribution of biodiversity across our planet. We evaluated how a number of biodiversity measures (species richness, evenness, dominance, rarity, Simpson’s diversity, and Shannon–Weiner diversity) varied across natural productivity gradients at 6 grassland sites in the continental US. Variation in productivity did not account for a substantial amount of variation in any measure of biodiversity at small spatial scales (≈1 m2) at most sites. When productivity accounted for substantial variation in biodiversity, different measures of biodiversity responded to productivity in different ways. For example, dominance changed in a U-shaped fashion along a productivity gradient whereas richness increased in an asymptotic fashion. Consequently, diversity indices, which account for both species richness and evenness, varied in a hump-shaped fashion along the productivity gradient. Our results highlight that an exclusive focus on the association between species richness and productivity provides an incomplete picture of how a community’s biodiversity is related to its functioning.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Annual aboveground net primary productivity
Cedar Creek LTER
Kellog Biological Station LTER
Short Grass Steppe LTER
Berger WH, Parker FL (1970) Diversity of planktonic Foraminifera in deep sea sediments. Science 168:1345–1347. doi:10.1126/science.168.3937.1345
Camargo JA (1993) Must dominance increase with the number of subordinate species in competitive interactions? J Theor Biol 161:537–542. doi:10.1006/jtbi.1993.1072
Chalcraft DR, Williams J, Smith MD, Willig MR (2004) Scale dependence in the species richness—productivity relationship: the role of species turnover. Ecology 85:2701–2708. doi:10.1890/03-0561
Drobner U, Bibby J, Smith B, Wilson JB (1998) The relation between community biomass and evenness: what does community theory predict, and can these predictions be tested? Oikos 82:295–302. doi:10.2307/3546969
Fukami T, Morin PJ (2003) Productivity-biodiversity relationships depend on the history of community assembly. Nature 424:423–426. doi:10.1038/nature01785
Gessner MO, Inchausti P, Persson L, Raffaelli D, Giller PS (2004) Biodiversity effects on ecosystem functioning: insights from aquatic systems. Oikos 104:419–422. doi:10.1111/j.0030-1299.1999.13252.x
Giller PS, Hillebrand H, Berninger UG, Gessner MO, Hawkins S, Inchausti P et al (2004) Biodiversity effects on ecosystem functioning: emerging issues and their experimental test in aquatic environments. Oikos 104:423–436. doi:10.1111/j.0030-1299.2004.13253.x
Grace JB (1999) The factors controlling species density in herbaceous plant communities: an assessment. Perspect Plant Ecol 2:1–28. doi:10.1078/1433-8319-00063
Grace JB, Anderson TM, Smith MD, Seabloom E, Andelman SJ, Meche G et al (2007) Does species diversity limit productivity in natural grassland communities? Ecol Lett 10:680–689. doi:10.1111/j.1461-0248.2007.01058.x
Grime JP (2001) Plant strategies, vegetation processes, and ecosystem processes, 2nd edn. Wiley
Gross KL, Willig MR, Gough L, Inouye R, Cox SB (2000) Patterns of species density and productivity at different spatial scales in herbaceous plant communities. Oikos 89:417–427. doi:10.1034/j.1600-0706.2000.890301.x
Hobbie JE, Carpenter SR, Grimm NP, Gosz JR, Seastedt TR (2003) The US long term ecological research program. Bioscience 53:21–32. doi:10.1641/0006-3568(2003)053[0021:TULTER]2.0.CO;2
Hooper DU, Chapin FSIII, Ewel JJ, Hector A, Inchausti P, Lavorel S et al (2005) Effects of biodiversity on ecosystem functioning: a consensus of current knowledge. Ecol Monogr 75:3–36. doi:10.1890/04-0922
Kassen R, Buckling A, Bell G, Rainey PB (2000) Diversity peaks at intermediate productivity in a laboratory microcosm. Nature 406:508–512. doi:10.1038/35020060
Kempton RA (1979) The structure of species abundance and measurement of diversity. Biometrics 35:307–321. doi:10.2307/2529952
Kinzig AP, Pacala SW, Tilman D (2001) The functional consequences of biodiversity: empirical progress and theoretical extensions. Princeton University Press
Laird RA, Pither J, Aarssen LW (2003) Species evenness, not richness, has a consistent relationship with productivity in old-field vegetation. Commun Ecol 4:21–28. doi:10.1556/ComEc.4.2003.1.2
Leibold MA, Chase JM, Shurin JB, Downing AL (1997) Species turnover and the regulation of trophic structure. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 28:467–494. doi:10.1146/annurev.ecolsys.28.1.467
Loreau M, Naeem S, Inchausti P, Bengtsson J, Grime JP, Hector A et al (2001) Biodiversity and ecosystem functioning: current knowledge and future challenges. Science 294:804–808. doi:10.1126/science.1064088
Loreau M, Naeem S, Inchausti P (2002) Biodiversity and ecosystem functioning: synthesis and perspectives. Oxford University Press
Magurran AE (1988) Ecological diversity and its measurement. Princeton University Press.
May RM (1981) Theoretical ecology, 2nd edn. Blackwell Scientific Publishers
Mitchell-Olds T, Shaw RG (1987) Regression analysis of natural selection: statistical inference and biological interpretation. Evol Int J Org Evol 41:1149–1161. doi:10.2307/2409084
Mittelbach GG, Steiner CF, Scheiner SM, Gross KL, Reynolds HL, Waide RB et al (2001) What is the observed relationship between species richness and productivity? Ecology 82:2381–2396
Neter J, Kutner MH, Nachtsheim CJ, Wasserman W (1996) Applied linear statistical models, 4th edn. Times Mirror Higher Education Group, Inc.
Nijs I, Roy J (2000) How important are species richness, species evenness and interspecific differences to productivity? A mathematical model. Oikos 88:57–66. doi:10.1034/j.1600-0706.2000.880107.x
Pielou EC (1977) Mathematical ecology. Wiley
SAS (1999) SAS/SYST STAT user’s guide. SAS Institute
Scheiner SM, Jones S (2002) Diversity, productivity and scale in Wisconsin vegetation. Evol Ecol Res 4:1097–1117
Scheiner SM, Willig MR (2005) Developing unified theories in ecology as exemplified with diversity gradients. Am Nat 166:458–469. doi:10.1086/444402
Smith B, Wilson JB (1996) A consumer’s guide to evenness indices. Oikos 76:70–82. doi:10.2307/3545749
Stevens RD, Willig MR (2002) Geographical ecology at the community level: perspectives on the diversity of New World bats. Ecology 83:545–560
Stirling G, Wilsey B (2001) Empirical relationships between species richness, evenness and proportional diversity. Am Nat 158:286–299. doi:10.1086/321317
Tokeshi M (1993) Species abundance patterns and community structure. Adv Ecol Res 24:111–187. doi:10.1016/S0065-2504(08)60042-2
Vermeer JG, Verhoeven JTA (1987) Species composition and biomass production of mesotrophic fens in relation to the nutrient status of the organic soil. Acta Oecol-Oec Plant 8:321–330
Waide RB, Willig MR, Steiner CF, Mittelbach G, Gough L, Dodson SI et al (1999) The relationship between productivity and species richness. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 30:257–300. doi:10.1146/annurev.ecolsys.30.1.257
Weiher E, Keddy PA (1999) Relative abundance and evenness patterns along diversity and biomass gradients. Oikos 87:355–361. doi:10.2307/3546751
Whittaker RH (1972) Evolution and measurement of species diversity. Taxon 21:213–251. doi:10.2307/1218190
Wilsey BJ, Chalcraft DR, Bowles C, Willig MR (2005) Relationships among indices suggest that richness is an incomplete surrogate for grassland biodiversity. Ecology 86:1178–1184. doi:10.1890/04-0394
Worm B, Lotze HK, Hillebrand H, Sommer U (2002) Consumer versus resource control of species diversity and ecosystem functioning. Nature 417:848–851. doi:10.1038/nature00830
This study would not have been possible without the provision of data by the Cedar Creek LTER (J. Knopps and D. Tilman), the Kellog Biological Station LTER (K. Gross), and the Shortgrass Steppe LTER (D. Milchunas and J. Moore) programs. The research group at SGS is a partnership between Colorado State University, United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, and the U.S. Forest Service Pawnee National Grasslands. The National Science Foundation’s Long-Term Ecological Research program provided significant funding for the collection of data (DEB-9632852). Analytical portions of this work were supported by the Knowledge and Distributed Intelligence Program (NSF Grant DEB 99-80154) and the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, a Center funded by NSF (Grant DEB-0072909), the University of California, and the Santa Barbara campus. Additional support was provided by Texas Tech University and a USDA-ARS specific cooperative agreement no. 58-6206-0-023 faculty development grant from Iowa State University (BJW). We thank S. Andelman, I. Castro, J. Knopps, D. Milchunas, W. Polley, S. Presley, M. Smith, D. Tilman, H. Vance-Chalcraft and J. Williams for thoughtful comments on drafts of this manuscript.
About this article
Cite this article
Chalcraft, D.R., Wilsey, B.J., Bowles, C. et al. The relationship between productivity and multiple aspects of biodiversity in six grassland communities. Biodivers Conserv 18, 91–104 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-008-9457-6