The relationship between species diversity and ecosystem functions has generated considerable debate among ecologists. Ecosystem functions (e.g. productivity, nutrient retention) are often positively correlated with species richness in experimental plant assemblages, but little or no correlation exists in natural communities. We examined the effects of species richness on productivity and available soil nitrate by experimentally manipulating richness using random draws from a pool of ten perennial grasses. Species richness had no significant effect on aboveground productivity or soil nitrate availability, suggesting that functional diversity may be more important than species richness in determining ecosystem functions. The relationship between diversity and ecosystem functions may also depend on resource limitation. A positive relationship is expected when below-ground resources are limiting, but the relationship is expected to weaken when below-ground resource supply rates are higher and competition for light becomes more important. Further experiments are required to determine the mechanisms underlying diversity-productivity relationships.
coefficient of variation.
Aarssen, L.W. 1997. High productivity in grassland ecosystems: effected by species diversity or productive species? Oikos 80: 183–184.
Chapin III, F.S., O.E. Sala, I.C. Burke, J.P. Grime, D.U. Hooper, W.K. Lauenroth, A. Lombard, H.A. Mooney, A.R. Mosier, S. Naeem, S.W. Pacala, J. Roy, W.L. Steffen and D. Tilman. 1998. Ecosystem consequences of changing biodiversity. Bioscience 48: 45–52.
Doak, D.F., D. Bigger, E.K. Harding, M.A. Marvier, R.E. O’Malley and D. Thomson. 1998. The statistical inevitability of stability-diversity relationships in community ecology. Am. Nat. 151: 264–276.
Ehrlich, P.R. and H.A. Mooney. 1983. Extinction, substitution, and ecosystem services. Bioscience 33: 248–253.
Environment Canada. 1993. Canadian climate normals: 1961–1990. Vol. 2. Prairie Provinces. Environment Canada, Ottawa.
Ewel, J.J., M.J. Mazzarino and C.W. Berish. 1991. Tropical soil fertility changes under monocultures and successional communities of different structure. Ecol. Appl. 1: 289–302.
Frank, D.A. and S.J. McNaughton. 1991. Stability increases with diversity in plant communities: empirical evidence from the 1988 Yellowstone drought. Oikos 62: 360–362.
Garnier, E., M.L. Navas, M.P. Austin, J.M. Lilley and R.M. Gifford 1997. A problem for biodiversity-productivity studies: how to compare the productivity of multispecific plant mixtures to that of monocultures. Acta Oecologia 18: 657–670.
Givnish, T.J. 1986. On the economy of plant form and function. Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge.
Givnish, T.J. 1994. Does diversity beget stability? Nature 371: 113–114.
Grime, J.P. 1979. Plant strategies and vegetation processes. Wiley, Chichester.
Grime, J.P., K. Thompson, R. Hunt, J.G. Hodgson, J.H.C. Cornelissen, I.H. Rorison, G.A.F. Hendry, T.W. Ashenden, A.P. Askew, S.R. Band, R.E. Booth, C.C. Bossard, B.D. Campbell, J.E.L. Cooper, A.W. Davison, P.L. Gupta, W. Hall, D.W. Hand, M.A. Hannah, S.H. Hillier, D.J. Hodkinson, A. Jalili, Z. Liu, J.M.L. Mackey, N. Matthews, M.A. Mowforth, A.M. Neal, R.J. Reader, K. Reiling, W. Ross Fraser, R.E. Spencer, F. Sutton, D.E. Tasker, P.C. Thorpe and J. Whitehouse. 1997. Integrated screening validates primary axes of specialisation in plants. Oikos 79: 259–281.
Harper, J.L. 1977. Plant population biology. Academic Press, London.
Hector, A., B. Schmid, C. Beierkuhnlein, M.C. Caldeira, M. Diemer, P.G. Dimitrakopoulos, J.A. Finn, H. Freitas, J.S. Giller, J. Good, R. Harris, P. Högberg, K. Huss-Danell, J. Joshi, A. Jumpponen, C. Körner, P.W. Leadley, M. Loreau, A. Minns, C.P.H. Mulder, G. O’Donovan, S.J. Otway, J.S. Pereira, A. Prinz, D.J. Read, M. Scherer-Lorenzen, E.-D. Schulze, A.-S.D. Siamantziouras, E.M. Spehn, A.C. Terry, A.Y. Troumbis, F.I. Woodward, S. Yachi and J.H. Lawton. 1999. Plant diversity and productivity in European grasslands. Science 286: 1123–1127.
Hobbie, S.E. 1992. Effects of plant species on nutrient cycling. Trends Ecol. Evol. 7: 336–339.
Hooper, D.U. and P.M. Vitousek. 1997. The effects of plant composition and diversity on ecosystem processes. Science 277: 1302–1305.
Hooper, D.U. and P.M. Vitousek. 1998. Effects of plant composition and diversity on nutrient cycling. Ecol. Monogr. 68: 121–149.
Huston, M.A. 1997. Hidden treatments in ecological experiments: re-evaluating the ecosystem function of biodiversity. Oecologia 110: 449–460.
Huston, M.A. and D.L. DeAngelis. 1994. Competition and coexistence: the effects of resource transport and supply rates. Am. Nat. 144: 954–977.
Huston, M.A. and T.M. Smith. 1987. Plant succession: life history and competition. Am. Nat. 130: 168–198.
Joliffe, P.A. 1997. Are mixed populations of plant species more productive than pure stands? Oikos 80: 595–602.
Jones, C. and J.H. Lawton. 1995. Linking species and ecosystems. Chapman and Hall, New York.
Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. Vol. 1. Checklist. Timber Press, Portland.
Keay, J. and P.M.A. Menagé. 1970. Automated determination of ammonium and nitrate in soil extracts by distillation. Analyst 95: 379–382.
Lawton, J.H. and V.K. Brown. 1993. Redundancy in ecosystems. In: Schulze, E.D. and H.A. Mooney (eds.). Biodiversity and ecosystem function. Springer, New York. pp. 255–270.
May, R.M. 1974. Stability and complexity in model ecosystems. Princeton Univ. Press, Princeton.
McKane, R.B., D.F. Grigal and M.P. Russelle. 1990. Spatiotemporal differences in 15N uptake and the organization of an old-field plant community. Ecology 71: 1126–1132.
McNaughton, S.J. 1977. Diversity and stability of ecological communities: a comment on the role of empiricism in ecology. Am. Nat. 111: 515–525.
McNaughton, S.J. 1993. Biodiversity and the function of grazing ecosystems. In: Schulze, E.D. and H.A. Mooney (eds.). Biodiversity and ecosystem function. Springer, New York. pp. 361–384.
Naeem, S. 1998. Species redundancy and ecosystem reliability. Conserv. Biol. 12: 39–45.
Naeem, S. and S. Li. 1997. Biodiversity enhances ecosystem reliability. Nature 390: 507–509.
Naeem, S., L.J. Thompson, S.R Lawler, J.H. Lawton and R.M. Woodfin. 1994. Declining biodiversity can alter the performance of ecosystems. Nature 368: 734–737.
Naeem, S., L.J. Thompson, S.R. Lawler, J.H. Lawton and R.M. Woodfin. 1995. Empirical evidence that declining species diversity may alter the performance of terrestrial ecosystems. Phil. Trans. Royal Soc. London B 347: 249–262.
Pimm, S.L. 1984. The complexity and stability of ecosystems. Nature 307: 321–326.
Richter, D.D., D. Markewitz, C. G. Wells, H.L. Allen, R. April, P.R. Heine and B. Urrego. 1994. Soil chemical change during three decades in an old-field loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.) ecosystem. Ecology 75: 1463–1473.
Sankaran, M. and S.J. McNaughton. 1999. Determinants of biodiversity regulate compositional stability of communities. Nature 401: 691–693.
Schulze, E.D. and H.A. Mooney. 1993. Biodiversity and ecosystem function. Springer, New York.
Schwartz, M.W., C.A. Brigham, J.D. Hoeksema, K.G. Lyons, M.H. Mills and P.J. van Martgem. 2000. Linking biodiversity to ecosystem function: implications for conservation ecology. Oecologia 122: 297–305.
Tilman, D. 1999. The ecological consequences of changes in biodiversity: a search for general principles. Ecology 80: 1455–1474.
Tilman, D., C.L. Lehman and C.E. Bristow. 1998. Diversity-stability relationships: statistical inevitability or ecological consequence? Am. Nat. 151: 277–282.
Tilman, D. and J.A. Downing. 1994. Biodiversity and stability in grasslands. Nature 367: 363–365.
Tilman, D., J. Knops, D. Wedin, P. Reich, M. Ritchie and E. Siemann 1997a. The influence of functional diversity and composition on ecosystem function. Science 277: 1300–1302.
Tilman, D., C. Lehman and K. Thompson. 1997b. Plant diversity and ecosystem productivity: theoretical considerations. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. (USA) 94: 1857–1861.
Tilman, D., D. Wedin and J. Knops. 1996. Productivity and sustainability influenced by biodiversity in grassland ecosystems. Nature 319: 118–720.
Vandermeer, J.H. 1989. The ecology of intercropping. Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge.
Waide, R.B., M.R. Willig, C.F. Steiner, G. Mittelbach, L. Cough, S.I. Dodson, G.P. Juday and R. Parmenter. 1999. The relationship between productivity and species richness. Ann. Rev. Ecol. Syst. 30: 257–300.
Walker, B.H. 1992. Biodiversity and ecosystem redundancy. Conserv. Biol. 6: 18–23.
Walker, B.H. 1995. Conserving biological diversity through ecosystem resilience. Conserv. Biol. 9: 747–752.
Wardle, D.A. 1999. Is “sampling effect” a problem for experiments investigating biodiversity-ecosystem function relationships? Oikos 82: 403–407.
Wardle, D.A., K.I. Bonner and K.S. Nicholson. 1997a. Biodiversity and plant litter: experimental evidence which does not support the view that enhanced species richness improved ecosystem function. Oikos 79: 247–258.
Wardle, D.A. and K.S. Nicholson. 1996. Synergistic effects of grassland plant species on soil microbial biomass and activity: implications for ecosystem-level effects of enriched plant diversity. Funct. Ecol. 10: 410–416.
Wardle, D.A., O. Zackrisson, G. Hörnberg and C. Gallet. 1997b. Biodiversity and ecosystem properties. Science 277: 1296–1299.
Wedin, D.A. and D. Tilman. 1990. Species’ effects on nitrogen cycling: a test with perennial grasses. Oecologia 84: 433–441.
Wilson, E.O. 1992. The diversity of life. Norton, New York.
Zar, J.H. 1984. Biostatistical analysis. Prentice-Hall, New York.
About this article
Cite this article
Kenkel, N.C., Peltzer, D.A., Baluta, D. et al. Increasing plant diversity does not influence productivity: empirical evidence and potential mechanisms. COMMUNITY ECOLOGY 1, 165–170 (2000). https://doi.org/10.1556/ComEc.1.2000.2.6
- Ecosystem function
- Field experiment
- Prairie plants
- Soil nitrate
- Species richness