Aim: Our objective was to document the general relationship between plant species richness (SR) and above-ground net primary productivity (ANPP) at different spatial scales and the environmental influence on this relationship.
Location: Temperate and alpine grasslands of China.
Methods: We investigated SR and ANPP at 321 field sites (1355 plots) across the widely distributed temperate and alpine grasslands of China. Ordinary least squares (OLS) regressions were used to test SR–ANPP relationships among site means. Plot-level data of SR and ANPP were analysed with general linear models (GLMs) and the correlation between SR and ANPP was decomposed into covariance components to test the influence of climatic variables, region, vegetation type and remaining variation among sites on SR, ANPP and their relationship.
Results: We found positive linear relationships between SR and ANPP among sites in both the alpine and temperate grassland regions and in different grassland vegetation types of these biomes. Environmental gradients such as growing-season precipitation affected both SR and ANPP in parallel. However, after removing the among-site environmental variation, residual SR and ANPP were no longer correlated at the pooled within-site level.
Main conclusions: The positive SR–ANPP relationship across large-scale environmental gradients among sites was most likely the result of climatic variables influencing SR and ANPP in parallel. Our results suggest that in China’s natural grasslands there is no direct relationship between SR and ANPP, presumably because the pool of available species for local community assembly is large, in contrast to experiments where species pools are artificially reduced.