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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: 1/10/2014
Publication Date: 2/16/2014
Publication 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: 10/19/2017
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