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General stabilizing effects of plant diversity on grassland productivity through population asynchrony and overyielding

TitleGeneral stabilizing effects of plant diversity on grassland productivity through population asynchrony and overyielding
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsHector, A, Hautier, Y, Saner, P, Wacker, L, Bagchi, R, Joshi, J, Scherer-Lorenzen, M, Spehn, EM, Bazeley-White, E, Weilenmann, M, Caldeira, MC, Dimitrakopoulos, PG, Finn, JA, Huss-Danell, K, Jumpponen, A, Mulder, CPH, Palmborg, C, Pereira, JS, Siamantziouras, ASD, Terry, AC, Troumbis, AY, Schmid, B, Loreau, M

Insurance effects of biodiversity can stabilize the functioning of multispeciesecosystems against environmental variability when differential species’ responses lead toasynchronous population dynamics. When responses are not perfectly positively correlated,declines in some populations are compensated by increases in others, smoothing variability inecosystem productivity. This variance reduction effect of biodiversity is analogous to the riskspreadingbenefits of diverse investment portfolios in financial markets.We use data from the BIODEPTH network of grassland biodiversity experiments toperform a general test for stabilizing effects of plant diversity on the temporal variability ofindividual species, functional groups, and aggregate communities. We tested three potentialmechanisms: reduction of temporal variability through population asynchrony; enhancementof long-term average performance through positive selection effects; and increases in thetemporal mean due to overyielding.Our results support a stabilizing effect of diversity on the temporal variability of grasslandaboveground annual net primary production through two mechanisms. Two-speciescommunities with greater population asynchrony were more stable in their average productionover time due to compensatory fluctuations. Overyielding also stabilized productivity byincreasing levels of average biomass production relative to temporal variability. However,there was no evidence for a performance-enhancing effect on the temporal mean throughpositive selection effects. In combination with previous work, our results suggest thatstabilizing effects of diversity on community productivity through population asynchrony andoveryielding appear to be general in grassland ecosystems.

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