Plant diversity has been shown to drive important ecosystem functions such as productivity. At the same time, plant
diversity and species composition are altered in alpine ecosystems by human impacts such as skiing. Therefore, we
investigated impacts of decreased species richness and ski piste treatments on ecosystem functions in subalpine
Species richness manipulations were combined with nutrient input from snow cover treated with snow additives that are commonly used on ski pistes. Three different species richness levels containing 1, 3 or 9 species randomly selected from a larger pool plus unmanipulated meadow plots were treated with four water types to simulate melt water. One water type contained the snow additive ammonium nitrate. Invasion into the communities was prevented by weeding during 2 years and allowed in three subsequent years.
Higher species richness increased plant cover and biomass and decreased their variation. The number of functional
groups in a plant assemblage had a positive effect on plant growth. Ammonium nitrate strongly increased biomass and plant cover after a single application but decreased species richness in originally diverse meadow plots. There was no significant interaction between species richness and water-type treatments.
After the cessation of weeding, the species richness of different plot types converged within 3 years due to invasion. Nevertheless, relationships between initial species richness and plant cover remained positive.
The results suggest that the diversity and species composition of alpine vegetation are important factors influencing cover and biomass, in particular during re-colonization of bare ground after disturbances such as ski-piste construction. In slow-growing alpine vegetation, initially positive diversity effects may remain even after successional convergence of species richness due to invasion. The negative effect of ammonium nitrate on species richness suggests the snow additives should only be used with care.