Plant and Soil

, Volume 391, Issue 1–2, pp 93–108 | Cite as

Plant identity and evenness affect yield and trace gas exchanges in forage mixtures

  • A. Ribas
  • R. Llurba
  • F. Gouriveau
  • N. Altimir
  • J. Connolly
  • M. T. Sebastià
Regular Article



We explore the potential effect of plant diversity on yield and greenhouse gas exchanges in forage mixtures, identifying potential co-benefits between functions.


Using the biodiversity-ecosystem function (BEF) modelling framework (Connolly et al. 2013), we analyse results from a field experiment where the relative sown proportion of three forage species (a grass, a legume, and a non-legume forb) was varied to obtain a gradient in species proportions and evenness. The exchange rates of N2O, CH4, NH3 and CO2 were measured, together with forage yield and soil inorganic N content. We conducted gas measurements 4 years after sward establishment during the expected period of highest emissions.


Results support the hypothesis that emission rates are affected by plant diversity. Sown evenness was found to decrease N2O exchange rates, and some evidence was found for a similar negative effect on CH4. Plant composition affected gas exchanges, with legume monocultures showing the highest emission rates for all gases. Diversity also increased yield and modulated NO3 and NH4 + soil concentrations.


The integrated analysis of yield and emission response to species diversity allows the identification of a range of species proportions for which both functions are optimized. Diversifying forage legume-based systems could contribute to mitigation while improving ecosystem productivity.


Diversity effect Forage mixtures GHG emissions N2O, NH3, CO2 and CH4 exchange Mitigation 



We want to thank Rosa Teira, Camille Boubekeur, Miquel Nogues (UdL), and Salvador Aljazairi (UB) for their help and technical support. This work was developed within projects OPS (209/PC08/3-08.2, Spanish Ministry of Environment); projects from FECYT, the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology: CARBOAGROPAS (CGL2006-13555-C03-01/BOS), and BIOGEI (CGL-2013-49142-C2-1-R); and FLUXPYR (INTERREG IV-A POCTEFA, cofinanced by EU-ERDF, Generalitat de Catalunya and Conseil Régional Midi-Pyrénées). NA acknowledges funding through FP7/2007-2013 grant agreement n° 275855. Activities within Consolider-Ingenio MONTES SD2008-0040 and the EU COST Action 852 also contributed to the development of ideas in this paper.

Supplementary material

11104_2015_2407_MOESM1_ESM.docx (822 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 821 kb)
11104_2015_2407_MOESM2_ESM.docx (133 kb)
ESM 2 (DOCX 132 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Ribas
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • R. Llurba
    • 1
    • 4
  • F. Gouriveau
    • 1
  • N. Altimir
    • 1
  • J. Connolly
    • 5
  • M. T. Sebastià
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.CTFC, Forest Sciences Centre of CataloniaSolsonaSpain
  2. 2.BABVE, Edifici CUniversitat Autònoma de BarcelonaBellaterraSpain
  3. 3.CREAFCataloniaSpain
  4. 4.Departament HBJ, ETSEAUniversity of LleidaLleidaSpain
  5. 5.UCD, School of Mathematical SciencesDublin 4Ireland

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