Plant Ecology

, Volume 186, Issue 1, pp 1–12 | Cite as

Productivity and species richness in an arid ecosystem: a long-term perspective

  • Stephen B. CoxEmail author
  • Christopher P. Bloch
  • Richard D. Stevens
  • Laura F. Huenneke


There is little consensus on the form of the relationship between biodiversity and productivity, and most of the research examining it has been done in temperate grasslands, with arid ecosystems receiving comparatively little attention. Using 9 years of data collected using standardized sampling methods from five different community types in the Chihuahuan Desert (Jornada Basin Long-Term Ecological Research site, New Mexico, USA), we evaluate the relationship between productivity and species richness at multiple spatial scales. The relationship was consistently unimodal at the largest scale considered; however, community types differed in both the form of the relationship and the degree to which patterns fluctuated over time. Although significant linear and unimodal patterns were evident, these models fit poorly, suggesting that annual primary productivity is a weak predictor of mean species richness in arid communities. We suggest that productivity–diversity relationships are best described by a boundary that places an upper limit on species coexistence across the gradient of productivity for a site. This upper limit often appears to be maximized at intermediate levels of productivity, but it has relatively few points on the downward portion of the boundary. By focusing efforts on characterizing boundaries, approaches should be developed to determine the factors that are reducing species richness compared to what would be expected, given the level of productivity.


Arid ecosystem Productivity Quantile regression Species richness Unimodal 


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A portion of this work was conducted during a distributed seminar course at Texas Tech University entitled “Using a Knowledge Network to Explore Scale-Dependent Relationships Between Species Richness and Productivity” and was supported by NSF Grant # DEB-99-80154 and the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, a center funded by NSF (Grant #DEB-94-21535), the University of California at Santa Barbara, and the State of California. Additional support was provided by the Department of Biological Sciences, Texas Tech University. Data were provided by the Jornada Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) projects, and funding for these data was provided by NSF (Grants DEB-92-40261 and DEB 94-11971). S.M. Ernest, S. Andelman, S.␣Scheiner, E. Seabloom, E. Sobek, M. Smith, A. Sparrow, R. Waide, J. Williams, M., E. Sobek, Willig, and an anonymous reviewer provided insightful and constructive comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephen B. Cox
    • 1
    Email author
  • Christopher P. Bloch
    • 2
  • Richard D. Stevens
    • 3
  • Laura F. Huenneke
    • 4
  1. 1.The Institute of Environmental and Human Health & Department of Environmental ToxicologyTexas Tech UniversityLubbockUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesTexas Tech UniversityLubbockUSA
  3. 3.Department of Biological SciencesLouisiana State UniversityBaton RougeUSA
  4. 4.College of Arts & SciencesNorthern Arizona UniversityFlagstaffUSA

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