Increasing plant diversity does not influence productivity: empirical evidence and potential mechanisms

Abstract

The relationship between species diversity and ecosystem functions has generated considerable debate among ecologists. Ecosystem functions (e.g. productivity, nutrient retention) are often positively correlated with species richness in experimental plant assemblages, but little or no correlation exists in natural communities. We examined the effects of species richness on productivity and available soil nitrate by experimentally manipulating richness using random draws from a pool of ten perennial grasses. Species richness had no significant effect on aboveground productivity or soil nitrate availability, suggesting that functional diversity may be more important than species richness in determining ecosystem functions. The relationship between diversity and ecosystem functions may also depend on resource limitation. A positive relationship is expected when below-ground resources are limiting, but the relationship is expected to weaken when below-ground resource supply rates are higher and competition for light becomes more important. Further experiments are required to determine the mechanisms underlying diversity-productivity relationships.

Abbreviations

CV:

coefficient of variation.

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Correspondence to N. C. Kenkel.

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Kenkel, N.C., Peltzer, D.A., Baluta, D. et al. Increasing plant diversity does not influence productivity: empirical evidence and potential mechanisms. COMMUNITY ECOLOGY 1, 165–170 (2000). https://doi.org/10.1556/ComEc.1.2000.2.6

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Keywords

  • Diversity
  • Ecosystem function
  • Field experiment
  • Grasses
  • Prairie plants
  • Productivity
  • Soil nitrate
  • Species richness
  • Stability