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A new experimental approach to test why biodiversity effects strengthen as ecosystems age


Vogel, Anja; Ebeling, Anne; Gleixner, Gerd; Roscher, Christiane; Scheu, Stefan; Ciobanu, Marcel; Koller-France, Eva; Lange, Markus; Lochner, Alfred; Meyer, Sebastian T; Oelmann, Yvonne; Wilcke, Wolfgang; Schmid, Bernhard; Eisenhauer, Nico (2019). A new experimental approach to test why biodiversity effects strengthen as ecosystems age. In: Eisenhauer, Nico; Bohan, David A; Dumbrell, Alex J. Mechanisms underlying the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem function. London: Elsevier, 221-264.

Abstract

Previous experimental studies found strengthening relationships between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning (BEF) over time. Simultaneous temporal changes of abiotic and biotic conditions, such as in the composition of soil communities, soil carbon and nutrient concentrations, plant community assembly or selection processes, are currently discussed as potential drivers for strengthening BEF relationships. Despite the popularity of these explanations, experimental tests of underlying mechanisms of strengthening BEF relationships over time are scarce, and confounding influences of calendar year cannot be ruled out unless ecosystems of different age are compared in the same calendar years. To address this critical gap of knowledge, we reestablished the plant communities of a long-term biodiversity experiment that had started in 2002 (the Jena Experiment) with new seeds and old or new soil again in 2016. Comparing these treatments with the original communities set up in 2002, we tested whether old communities had stronger plant diversity effects on plant productivity than young ones and if this depended on soil- or plant-related processes. Our first results show that in old communities, the effect of plant diversity on productivity was indeed stronger than in young communities and that this could not be explained by the age of the soil only. However, we found significant effects of soil on the composition of soil organisms, which might be relevant for other ecosystem functions and may have stronger effects over time. Our new experimental approach enables us to test which mechanisms cause strengthening BEF relationships for many different ecosystem functions independent of the study year.

Abstract

Previous experimental studies found strengthening relationships between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning (BEF) over time. Simultaneous temporal changes of abiotic and biotic conditions, such as in the composition of soil communities, soil carbon and nutrient concentrations, plant community assembly or selection processes, are currently discussed as potential drivers for strengthening BEF relationships. Despite the popularity of these explanations, experimental tests of underlying mechanisms of strengthening BEF relationships over time are scarce, and confounding influences of calendar year cannot be ruled out unless ecosystems of different age are compared in the same calendar years. To address this critical gap of knowledge, we reestablished the plant communities of a long-term biodiversity experiment that had started in 2002 (the Jena Experiment) with new seeds and old or new soil again in 2016. Comparing these treatments with the original communities set up in 2002, we tested whether old communities had stronger plant diversity effects on plant productivity than young ones and if this depended on soil- or plant-related processes. Our first results show that in old communities, the effect of plant diversity on productivity was indeed stronger than in young communities and that this could not be explained by the age of the soil only. However, we found significant effects of soil on the composition of soil organisms, which might be relevant for other ecosystem functions and may have stronger effects over time. Our new experimental approach enables us to test which mechanisms cause strengthening BEF relationships for many different ecosystem functions independent of the study year.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Book Section, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Language:English
Date:2019
Deposited On:23 Jan 2020 11:14
Last Modified:23 Jan 2020 11:44
Publisher:Elsevier
Series Name:Advances in Ecological Research
Number:61
ISSN:0065-2504
ISBN:978-0-08-102912-1
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/bs.aecr.2019.06.006

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