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Plant diversity maintains long-term ecosystem productivity under frequent drought by increasing short-term variation


Wagg, Cameron; O'Brien, Michael J; Vogel, Anja; Scherer-Lorenzen, Michael; Eisenhauer, Nico; Schmid, Bernhard; Weigelt, Alexandra (2017). Plant diversity maintains long-term ecosystem productivity under frequent drought by increasing short-term variation. Ecology, 98(11):2952-2961.

Abstract

Increasing frequency of extreme climatic events can disrupt ecosystem processes and destabilize ecosystem functioning. Biodiversity may dampen these negative effects of environmental perturbations to provide greater ecosystem stability. We assessed the effects of plant diversity on the resistance, recovery and stability of experimental grassland ecosystems in response to recurring summer drought over 7 yr. Plant biomass production was reduced during the summer drought treatment compared with control plots. However, the negative effect of drought was relatively less pronounced at high than at low plant diversity, demonstrating that biodiversity increased ecosystem resistance to environmental perturbation. Furthermore, more diverse plant communities compensated for the reduced productivity during drought by increasing spring productivity compared to control plots. The drought-induced compensatory recovery led to increased short-term variations in productivity across growing seasons in more diverse communities that stabilized the longer-term productivity across years. Our findings show that short-term variation between seasons in the face of environmental perturbation can lead to longer-term stability of annual productivity in diverse ecosystems compared to less diverse ecosystems.

Abstract

Increasing frequency of extreme climatic events can disrupt ecosystem processes and destabilize ecosystem functioning. Biodiversity may dampen these negative effects of environmental perturbations to provide greater ecosystem stability. We assessed the effects of plant diversity on the resistance, recovery and stability of experimental grassland ecosystems in response to recurring summer drought over 7 yr. Plant biomass production was reduced during the summer drought treatment compared with control plots. However, the negative effect of drought was relatively less pronounced at high than at low plant diversity, demonstrating that biodiversity increased ecosystem resistance to environmental perturbation. Furthermore, more diverse plant communities compensated for the reduced productivity during drought by increasing spring productivity compared to control plots. The drought-induced compensatory recovery led to increased short-term variations in productivity across growing seasons in more diverse communities that stabilized the longer-term productivity across years. Our findings show that short-term variation between seasons in the face of environmental perturbation can lead to longer-term stability of annual productivity in diverse ecosystems compared to less diverse ecosystems.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
Language:English
Date:2017
Deposited On:18 Jan 2018 16:24
Last Modified:19 Aug 2018 12:49
Publisher:Ecological Society of America
ISSN:0012-9658
Additional Information:Copyright by the Ecological Society of America
OA Status:Green
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1002/ecy.2003
PubMed ID:28869781

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