Community Ecology

, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp 145–159 | Cite as

On the measurement of diversity-productivity relationships in a northern mixed grass prairie (Grasslands National Park, Saskatchewan, Canada)

  • F. CsillagEmail author
  • M. Kertész
  • A. Davidson
  • S. Mitchell


For the investigation of diversity-productivity relationships under natural conditions, we present an operationally feasible measurement scheme explicitly considering the spatial organization of vegetation. We hypothesised that the spatial arrangement of the coexistence of species influences patch-level productivity. To characterise diversity, co-occurrences of species were recorded along oval transects allowing scaling by aggregation between 5 cm and 25 m. Productivity was characterised by field radiometric measurements, calibrated for leaf area and biomass, arranged in a sampling scheme scalable between 20 cm and 50 m. All data were collected along a slight resource gradient in the Stipa-Bouteloua (upland) community of the northern mixed-grass prairie in Grasslands National Park, Saskatchewan. We found a wide range of correlations (Kendall’s τ between −0.2 and 0.9) between various measures of diversity (species richness, local species combinations) and productivity (average and variability of leaf-area index) as a function of sampling unit size. For field assessment of patch-level composition and functioning, we recommend to use samples at the spatial resolution corresponding to the maximum number of local species combinations as an appropriate scale for comparison. We demonstrate how our sampling methodology can be considered for possible process-oriented inference about diversity and productivity. To characterise diversity-productivity relationships for long-term monitoring and prediction of plant community structure and functioning, scalable, repeatable, non-destructive observations should be applied.


Co-occurrence Leaf-area index Light interception Non-destructive sampling Spatial pattern Species combinations 



number of species


species combination


number of realised (observed) species combinations


maximum of NRSC vs. resolution (i.e., sampling unit size)


resolution at which NRSCmax occurs


Fraction of absorbed photo synthetically active radiation


leaf-area index


average of LAI


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The authors are indebted to S. Bartha for his insight, advice and computer programs, and to F. Gadallah, M-J. Fortin, J. Podani, and three anonymous reviewers for comments on the manuscript. The financial support of the Hungarian Scientific Research Foundation (OTKA T032319) to M. Kertész and of the Canadian Natural Science and Engineering Research Council to F. Csillag is gratefully acknowledged.


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© Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest 2001

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Authors and Affiliations

  • F. Csillag
    • 1
    Email author
  • M. Kertész
    • 2
  • A. Davidson
    • 1
  • S. Mitchell
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Geography and Institute for Land Information ManagementUniversity of TorontoMississaugaCanada
  2. 2.Institute of Ecology and BotanyHungarian Academy of SciencesVácrátótHungary

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