Biomass responses to elevated CO2, soil heterogeneity and diversity: an experimental assessment with grassland assemblages.
While it is well-established that the spatial distribution of soil nutrients (soil heterogeneity) influences the competitive ability and survival of individual plants, as well as the productivity of plant communities, there is a paucity of data on how soil heterogeneity and global change drivers interact to affect plant performance and ecosystem functioning. To evaluate the effects of elevated CO(2), soil heterogeneity and diversity (species richness and composition) on productivity, patterns of biomass allocation and root foraging precision, we conducted an experiment with grassland assemblages formed by monocultures, two- and three-species mixtures of Lolium perenne, Plantago lanceolata and Holcus lanatus. The experiment lasted for 90 days, and was conducted on microcosms built out of PVC pipe (length 38 cm, internal diameter 10 cm). When nutrients were heterogeneously supplied (in discrete patches), assemblages exhibited precise root foraging patterns, and had higher total, above- and belowground biomass. Greater aboveground biomass was observed under elevated CO(2). Species composition affected the below:aboveground biomass ratio and interacted with nutrient heterogeneity to determine belowground and total biomass. Species richness had no significant effects, and did not interact with either CO(2) or nutrient heterogeneity. Under elevated CO(2) conditions, the two- and three-species mixtures showed a clear trend towards underyielding. Our results show that differences among composition levels were dependent on soil heterogeneity, highlighting its potential role in modulating diversity-productivity relationships.
Maestre, FT; Reynolds, JF
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