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Plant diversity moderates drought stress in grasslands: Implications from a large real-world study on ¹³C natural abundances


Klaus, Valentin H; Hölzel, Norbert; Prati, Daniel; Schmitt, Barbara; Schöning, Ingo; Schrumpf, Marion; Solly, Emily F; Hänsel, Falk; Fischer, Markus; Kleinebecker, Till (2016). Plant diversity moderates drought stress in grasslands: Implications from a large real-world study on ¹³C natural abundances. Science of the Total Environment, 566-567:215-222.

Abstract

Land-use change and intensification play a key role in the current biodiversity crisis. The resulting species loss can have severe effects on ecosystem functions and services, thereby increasing ecosystem vulnerability to climate change. We explored whether land-use intensification (i.e. fertilization intensity), plant diversity and other potentially confounding environmental factors may be significantly related to water use (i.e. drought stress) of grassland plants. Drought stress was assessed using δ¹³C abundances in aboveground plant biomass of 150 grassland plots across a gradient of land-use intensity. Under water shortage, plants are forced to increasingly take up the heavier ¹³C due to closing stomata leading to an enrichment of ¹³C in biomass. Plants were sampled at the community level and for single species, which belong to three different functional groups (one grass, one herb, two legumes).
Results show that plant diversity was significantly related to the δ¹³C signal in community, grass and legume biomass indicating that drought stress was lower under higher diversity, although this relation was not significant for the herb species under study. Fertilization, in turn, mostly increased drought stress as indicated by more positive δ¹³C values. This effect was mostly indirect by decreasing plant diversity. In line with these results, we found similar patterns in the δ¹³C signal of the organic matter in the topsoil, indicating a long history of these processes.
Our study provided strong indication for a positive biodiversity-ecosystem functioning relationship with reduced drought stress at higher plant diversity. However, it also underlined a negative reinforcing situation: as land-use intensification decreases plant diversity in grasslands, this might subsequently increases drought sensitivity. Vice-versa, enhancing plant diversity in species-poor agricultural grasslands may moderate negative effects of future climate change.

Abstract

Land-use change and intensification play a key role in the current biodiversity crisis. The resulting species loss can have severe effects on ecosystem functions and services, thereby increasing ecosystem vulnerability to climate change. We explored whether land-use intensification (i.e. fertilization intensity), plant diversity and other potentially confounding environmental factors may be significantly related to water use (i.e. drought stress) of grassland plants. Drought stress was assessed using δ¹³C abundances in aboveground plant biomass of 150 grassland plots across a gradient of land-use intensity. Under water shortage, plants are forced to increasingly take up the heavier ¹³C due to closing stomata leading to an enrichment of ¹³C in biomass. Plants were sampled at the community level and for single species, which belong to three different functional groups (one grass, one herb, two legumes).
Results show that plant diversity was significantly related to the δ¹³C signal in community, grass and legume biomass indicating that drought stress was lower under higher diversity, although this relation was not significant for the herb species under study. Fertilization, in turn, mostly increased drought stress as indicated by more positive δ¹³C values. This effect was mostly indirect by decreasing plant diversity. In line with these results, we found similar patterns in the δ¹³C signal of the organic matter in the topsoil, indicating a long history of these processes.
Our study provided strong indication for a positive biodiversity-ecosystem functioning relationship with reduced drought stress at higher plant diversity. However, it also underlined a negative reinforcing situation: as land-use intensification decreases plant diversity in grasslands, this might subsequently increases drought sensitivity. Vice-versa, enhancing plant diversity in species-poor agricultural grasslands may moderate negative effects of future climate change.

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Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Language:English
Date:2016
Deposited On:01 Mar 2018 14:55
Last Modified:17 Jun 2018 05:40
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0048-9697
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.05.008

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