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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


Location: Grassland, Soil and Water Research Laboratory

Title: Eutrophication weakens stabilizing effects of diversity in natural grasslands

item Hautier, Yann -
item Seabloom, Eric -
item Borer, Elizabeth -
item Adler, Peter -
item Harpole, Stanley -
item Hillebrand, Helmut -
item Lind, Eric -
item Macdougall, Andrew -
item Stevens, Carly -
item Bakker, Jonathan -
item Buckley, Yvonne -
item Chu, Chengjin -
item Collins, Scott -
item Daleo, Pedro -
item Damschen, Ellen -
item Davies, Kendi -
item Fay, Philip
item Firn, Jennifer -
item Gruner, Daniel -
item Jin, Virginia
item Klein, Julia -
item Knops, Johannes -
item La Pierre, Kimberly -
item Li, Wei -
item Mcculley, Rebecca -
item Melbourne, Brett -
item Moore, Joslin -
item O'Halloran, Lydia -
item Prober, Suzanne -
item Risch, Anita -
item Sankaran, Mahesh -
item Schuetz, Martin -
item Hector, Andy -

Submitted to: Nature
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: January 10, 2014
Publication Date: February 16, 2014
Repository URL:
Citation: Hautier, Y., Seabloom, E., Borer, E., Adler, P., Harpole, S., Hillebrand, H., Lind, E., MacDougall, A., Stevens, C., Bakker, J.D., Buckley, Y., Chu, C., Collins, S.L., Daleo, P., Damschen, E.I., Davies, K., Fay, P.A., Firn, J., Gruner, D.S., Jin, V.L., Klein, J.A., Knops, J.M., La Pierre, K.J., Li, W., McCulley, R., Melbourne, B., Moore, J.L., O'Halloran, L.R., Prober, S.M., Risch, A.C., Sankaran, M., Schuetz, M., Hector, A. 2014. Eutrophication weakens stabilizing effects of diversity in natural grasslands. Nature. 508:521-525.

Interpretive Summary: What factors make grasslands, pastures, and rangelands stable in terms of their productivity and the plant species they contain? This is a major question faced by resource managers as global change increasingly alters these systems, reducing the number of species present or introducing invasive species. This study examined nearly 40 natural grasslands on four contents, and found that grassland plant communities were more stable through time when the individual species abundances changed at different rates and times, compared to more synchronous species change. However, when grasslands were fertilized, plant diversity was reduced but stability was unaffected. This finding reveals that inputs to grasslands alter the mechanisms that enhance stability of the species in grassland plant communities, and therefore grassland productivity. Understanding these mechanisms is crucial to improving management practices and in adapting to and mitigating effects from global change.

Technical Abstract: Experimental manipulations have demonstrated that plant diversity can stabilize ecosystem functioning through population asynchrony, with decreases in the functions of some species compensated by increases in others. However, the relevance to natural ecosystems is debated. We use a global study of 37 grasslands on four continents to present two main results. Natural communities with more species had higher population asynchrony but greater ecosystem stability generalizing a result from experimental to natural systems. In contrast, while fertilization reduced diversity, asynchrony and stability were unaffected demonstrating that the relationship between diversity and stability can be influenced by anthropogenic factors. Our results emphasize the need to understand the individual and interactive effects of global change drivers on the biological processes affecting stability.

Last Modified: 8/25/2016
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