Biotic mechanisms associated with species diversity are expected to stabilize communities in theoretical and experimental studies but may be difficult to detect in natural communities exposed to large environmental variation. We investigated biotic stability mechanisms in a multi-site study across Inner Mongolian grassland characterized by large spatial variations in species richness and composition and temporal fluctuations in precipitation. We used a new additive-partitioning method to separate species synchrony and population dynamics within communities into different species-abundance groups. Community stability was independent of species richness but was regulated by species synchrony and population dynamics, especially of abundant species. Precipitation fluctuations synchronized population dynamics within communities, reducing their stability. Our results indicate generality of biotic stability mechanisms in natural ecosystems and suggest that for accurate predictions of community stability in changing environments uneven species composition should be considered by partitioning stabilizing mechanisms into different species-abundance groups.