Eutrophication weakens stabilizing effects of diversity in natural grasslands.


Journal Article

Studies of experimental grassland communities have demonstrated that plant diversity can stabilize productivity through species asynchrony, in which decreases in the biomass of some species are compensated for by increases in others. However, it remains unknown whether these findings are relevant to natural ecosystems, especially those for which species diversity is threatened by anthropogenic global change. Here we analyse diversity-stability relationships from 41 grasslands on five continents and examine how these relationships are affected by chronic fertilization, one of the strongest drivers of species loss globally. Unmanipulated communities with more species had greater species asynchrony, resulting in more stable biomass production, generalizing a result from biodiversity experiments to real-world grasslands. However, fertilization weakened the positive effect of diversity on stability. Contrary to expectations, this was not due to species loss after eutrophication but rather to an increase in the temporal variation of productivity in combination with a decrease in species asynchrony in diverse communities. Our results demonstrate separate and synergistic effects of diversity and eutrophication on stability, emphasizing the need to understand how drivers of global change interactively affect the reliable provisioning of ecosystem services in real-world systems.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Hautier, Y; Seabloom, EW; Borer, ET; Adler, PB; Harpole, WS; Hillebrand, H; Lind, EM; MacDougall, AS; Stevens, CJ; Bakker, JD; Buckley, YM; Chu, C; Collins, SL; Daleo, P; Damschen, EI; Davies, KF; Fay, PA; Firn, J; Gruner, DS; Jin, VL; Klein, JA; Knops, JMH; La Pierre, KJ; Li, W; McCulley, RL; Melbourne, BA; Moore, JL; O'Halloran, LR; Prober, SM; Risch, AC; Sankaran, M; Schuetz, M; Hector, A

Published Date

  • April 2014

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 508 / 7497

Start / End Page

  • 521 - 525

PubMed ID

  • 24531763

Pubmed Central ID

  • 24531763

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1476-4687

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0028-0836

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1038/nature13014


  • eng