Effects of plant productivity and species richness on the drought response of soil respiration in temperate grasslands.
ABSTRACT: Soil respiration plays a crucial role in global carbon cycling. While the response of soil respiration to abiotic drivers like soil temperature and moisture is fairly well understood, less is known about the effects of biotic drivers, such as plant above- and belowground productivity or plant diversity, and their interactions with abiotic drivers on soil respiration. Thus, current predictions of soil respiration to summer droughts might miss relevant biological drivers and their interactions with abiotic drivers. Since drought events are expected to increase in Central Europe in the future, we simulated early summer drought using rainout shelters at 19 grassland sites, which differed in plant productivity and species richness in central Germany in 2002 and 2003. We tested the potentially interacting effects of drought with biotic drivers, i.e. annual above-ground productivity, species richness and root biomass, on the drought response of soil respiration in temperate grasslands. In both years, drought led to a significant reduction in soil respiration. The drought-induced reduction in soil respiration was largely driven by the reduction in above-ground productivity in response to drought. The extent of the drought response of soil respiration was dependent on the species richness level of the site and this interacting effect was explainable by the variation in root biomass (root biomass and species richness were positively correlated). Our findings highlight the importance of biotic drivers for the quantification of the drought response of soil respiration in grasslands.
Project description:We studied key mechanisms and drivers of soil functioning by analyzing soil respiration and enzymatic activity in Mediterranean holm oak forest fragments with different influence of the agricultural matrix. For this, structural equation models (SEM) were built including data on soil abiotic (moisture, temperature, organic matter, pH, nutrients), biotic (microbial biomass, bacterial and fungal richness), and tree-structure-related (basal area) as explanatory variables of soil enzymatic activity and respiration. Our results show that increased tree growth induced by forest fragmentation in scenarios of high agricultural matrix influence triggered a cascade of causal-effect relations, affecting soil functioning. On the one hand, soil enzymatic activity was strongly stimulated by the abiotic (changes in pH and microclimate) and biotic (microbial biomass) modifications of the soil environment arising from the increased tree size and subsequent soil organic matter accumulation. Soil CO2 emissions (soil respiration), which integrate releases from all the biological activity occurring in soils (autotrophic and heterotrophic components), were mainly affected by the abiotic (moisture, temperature) modifications of the soil environment caused by trees. These results, therefore, suggest that the increasing fragmentation of forests may profoundly impact the functioning of the plant-soil-microbial system, with important effects over soil CO2 emissions and nutrient cycling at the ecosystem level. Forest fragmentation is thus revealed as a key albeit neglected factor for accurate estimations of soil carbon dynamics under global change scenarios.
Project description:Maternal effects (i.e. trans-generational plasticity) and soil legacies generated by drought and plant diversity can affect plant performance and alter nutrient cycling and plant community dynamics. However, the relative importance and combined effects of these factors on plant growth dynamics remain poorly understood.We used soil and seeds from an existing plant diversity and drought manipulation field experiment in temperate grassland to test maternal, soil drought and diversity legacy effects, and their interactions, on offspring plant performance of two grassland species (Alopecurus pratensis and Holcus lanatus) under contrasting glasshouse conditions.Our results showed that drought soil legacy effects eclipsed maternal effects on plant biomass. Drought soil legacy effects were attributed to changes in both abiotic (i.e. nutrient availability) and biotic soil properties (i.e. microbial carbon and enzyme activity), as well as plant root and shoot atom 15N excess. Further, plant tissue nutrient concentrations and soil microbial C:N responses to drought legacies varied between the two plant species and soils from high and low plant diversity treatments. However, these diversity effects did not affect plant root or shoot biomass.These findings demonstrate that while maternal effects resulting from drought occur in grasslands, their impacts on plant performance are likely minor relative to drought legacy effects on soil abiotic and biotic properties. This suggests that soil drought legacy effects could become increasingly important drivers of plant community dynamics and ecosystem functioning as extreme weather events become more frequent and intense with climate change. A plain language summary is available for this article.
Project description:Ecosystems managed for production of biomass are often characterized by low biodiversity because management aims to optimize single ecosystem functions (i.e. yield) involving deliberate selection of species or cultivars. In consequence, considerable differences in observed plant species richness and productivity remain across systems, and the drivers of these differences have remained poorly resolved so far. In addition, it has remained unclear if species richness feeds back on ecosystem functions such as yield in real-world systems. Here, we establish N = 360 experimental plots across a broad range of managed ecosystems in several European countries, and use structural equation models to unravel potential drivers of plant species richness. We hypothesize that the relationships between productivity, total biomass and observed species richness are affected by management intensity, and that these effects differ between habitat types (dry grasslands, grasslands, and wetlands). We found that local management was an important driver of species richness across systems. Management caused system disturbance, resulting in reduced productivity yet enhanced total biomass. Plant species richness was directly and positively driven by management, with consistently negative effects of total biomass. Productivity effects on richness were positive, negative or neutral. Our study shows that management and total biomass drive plant species richness across real-world managed systems.
Project description:Moso bamboo has large potential to alleviate global warming through carbon sequestration. Since soil respiration (R s ) is a major source of CO2 emissions, we analyzed the dynamics of soil respiration (R s ) and its relation to environmental factors in a Moso bamboo (Phllostachys heterocycla cv. pubescens) forest to identify the relative importance of biotic and abiotic drivers of respiration. Annual average R s was 44.07 t CO2 ha-1 a-1. R s correlated significantly with soil temperature (P < 0.01), which explained 69.7% of the variation in R s at a diurnal scale. Soil moisture was correlated significantly with R s on a daily scale except not during winter, indicating it affected R s . A model including both soil temperature and soil moisture explained 93.6% of seasonal variations in R s . The relationship between R s and soil temperature during a day showed a clear hysteresis. R s was significantly and positively (P < 0.01) related to gross ecosystem productivity and leaf area index, demonstrating the significance of biotic factors as crucial drivers of R s .
Project description:The degree to which biodiversity may promote the stability of grasslands in the light of climatic variability, such as prolonged summer drought, has attracted considerable interest. Studies so far yielded inconsistent results and in addition, the effect of different grassland management practices on their response to drought remains an open question. We experimentally combined the manipulation of prolonged summer drought (sheltered vs. unsheltered sites), plant species loss (6 levels of 60 down to 1 species) and management intensity (4 levels varying in mowing frequency and amount of fertilizer application). Stability was measured as resistance and resilience of aboveground biomass production in grasslands against decreased summer precipitation, where resistance is the difference between drought treatments directly after drought induction and resilience is the difference between drought treatments in spring of the following year. We hypothesized that (i) management intensification amplifies biomass decrease under drought, (ii) resistance decreases with increasing species richness and with management intensification and (iii) resilience increases with increasing species richness and with management intensification.We found that resistance and resilience of grasslands to summer drought are highly dependent on management intensity and partly on species richness. Frequent mowing reduced the resistance of grasslands against drought and increasing species richness decreased resistance in one of our two study years. Resilience was positively related to species richness only under the highest management treatment. We conclude that low mowing frequency is more important for high resistance against drought than species richness. Nevertheless, species richness increased aboveground productivity in all management treatments both under drought and ambient conditions and should therefore be maintained under future climates.
Project description:Plants play a pivotal role in soil stabilization, with above-ground vegetation and roots combining to physically protect soil against erosion. It is possible that diverse plant communities boost root biomass, with knock-on positive effects for soil stability, but these relationships are yet to be disentangled.We hypothesize that soil erosion rates fall with increased plant species richness, and test explicitly how closely root biomass is associated with plant diversity.We tested this hypothesis in salt marsh grasslands, dynamic ecosystems with a key role in flood protection. Using step-wise regression, the influences of biotic (e.g. plant diversity) and abiotic variables on root biomass and soil stability were determined for salt marshes with two contrasting soil types: erosion-resistant clay (Essex, southeast UK) and erosion-prone sand (Morecambe Bay, northwest UK). A total of 132 (30-cm depth) cores of natural marsh were extracted and exposed to lateral erosion by water in a re-circulating flume.Soil erosion rates fell with increased plant species richness (R2 = 0.55), when richness was modelled as a single explanatory variable, but was more important in erosion-prone (R2 = 0.44) than erosion-resistant (R2 = 0.18) regions. As plant species richness increased from two to nine species·m-2, the coefficient of variation in soil erosion rate decreased significantly (R2 = 0.92). Plant species richness was a significant predictor of root biomass (R2 = 0.22). Step-wise regression showed that five key variables accounted for 80% of variation in soil erosion rate across regions. Clay-silt fraction and soil carbon stock were linked to lower rates, contributing 24% and 31%, respectively, to variation in erosion rate. In regional analysis, abiotic factors declined in importance, with root biomass explaining 25% of variation. Plant diversity explained 12% of variation in the erosion-prone sandy region.Our study indicates that soil stabilization and root biomass are positively associated with plant diversity. Diversity effects are more pronounced in biogeographical contexts where soils are erosion-prone (sandy, low organic content), suggesting that the pervasive influence of biodiversity on environmental processes also applies to the ecosystem service of erosion protection.
Project description:Simultaneous reductions in herbivore abundance and increases in nitrogen deposition have led to radical shifts in plant communities worldwide. While the individual impacts of these human-caused disturbances are apparent, few studies manipulate both herbivory and N, nor differentiate among herbivore guilds, to understand contingencies in the ability of these drivers to affect producer diversity and productivity. As such, understanding how the main and combined effects of increasing soil N with declining herbivores may influence plant community structure and function is critical to better understand the future of grassland ecosystems under multiple global change drivers.In this study, we asked: (a) What are the main effects of small mammal herbivores, invertebrate herbivores, and soil N on plant community structure and function? and (b) Are the effects of invertebrate herbivores and soil N on plant community structure and function contingent on small mammal herbivory? We used a nested design, with invertebrate and soil N treatments nested within small mammal manipulations in an existing tallgrass prairie. We measured plant community structure by quantifying plant richness, evenness, diversity, and composition across two full growing seasons. We also recorded total aboveground biomass to quantify grassland productivity.We found that small mammal herbivores strongly shaped plant diversity, species composition, and productivity. Small mammal herbivores also mediated the effects of soil N and invertebrate herbivores on grassland community structure, but not composition or productivity. Small mammal reduction lowered plant species richness while increasing aboveground biomass and altering compositional similarity. Invertebrate herbivores, in the presence of small mammals, promoted plant dominance by reducing evenness without altering compositional similarity. Additionally, soil nitrogen addition reduced plant richness, but only when small mammals were reduced, and no effects were detected on compositional similarity or productivity.Our findings provide further evidence that temperate grasslands can be strongly influenced by consumers, and that consumers mediate the effects of resources as well as other consumer guilds on producer evenness and richness. Taken together, we provide evidence of strong contingencies in the drivers of grassland structure, with small mammals directly altering plant diversity as well as mediating the effects of soil nitrogen and invertebrate herbivory on plant richness and evenness. Therefore, we suggest it is imperative to consider how consumer guilds and resource types may interact to shape grassland plant communities.
Project description:Urbanization is driving the transformation of natural and rural ecosystems worldwide by affecting both the abiotic environment and the biota. This raises the question whether urban ecosystems are able to provide services in a comparable way to their non-urban counterparts. In urban grasslands, the effects of urbanization-driven ecological novelty and the role of plant diversity in modulating ecosystem functioning have received little attention. In this study, we assessed the influence of biodiversity, abiotic and biotic novelty on ecosystem functioning based on in situ measurements in non-manipulated grasslands along an urbanization gradient in Berlin (Germany). We focused on plant aboveground biomass (AGB), intrinsic water-use efficiency (iWUE) and 15N enrichment factor (??15N) as proxies for biomass production, water and N cycling, respectively, within grassland communities, and tested how they change with plant biogeographic status (native vs alien), functional group and species identity. Approximately one third of the forb species were alien to Berlin and they were responsible for 13.1% of community AGB. Community AGB was positively correlated with plant-species richness. In contrast, iWUE and ??15N were mostly determined by light availability (depicted by sky view factor) and urban parameters like the percentage of impervious surface or human population density. We found that abiotic novelty potentially favors aliens in Berlin, mainly by enhancing their dispersal and fitness under drought. Mainly urban parameters indicating abiotic novelty were significantly correlated to both alien and native ??15N, but to AGB and iWUE of alien plants only, pointing to a stronger impact of abiotic novelty on N cycling compared to C and water cycling. At the species level, sky view factor appeared to be the prevailing driver of photosynthetic performance and resource-use efficiency. Although we identified a significant impact of abiotic novelty on AGB, iWUE and ??15N at different levels, the relationship between species richness and community AGB found in the urban grasslands studied in Berlin was comparable to that described in non-urban experimental grasslands in Europe. Hence, our results indicate that conserving and enhancing biodiversity in urban ecosystems is essential to preserve ecosystem services related to AGB production. For ensuring the provision of ecosystem services associated to water and N use, however, changes in urban abiotic parameters seem necessary.
Project description:Soil respiration is an important pathway of the C cycle. However, it is still poorly understood how changes in plant community diversity can affect this ecosystem process. Here we used a long-term experiment consisting of a gradient of grassland plant species richness to test for effects of diversity on soil respiration. We hypothesized that plant diversity could affect soil respiration in two ways. On the one hand, more diverse plant communities have been shown to promote plant productivity, which could increase soil respiration. On the other hand, the nutrient concentration in the biomass produced has been shown to decrease with diversity, which could counteract the production-induced increase in soil respiration. Our results clearly show that soil respiration increased with species richness. Detailed analysis revealed that this effect was not due to differences in species composition. In general, soil respiration in mixtures was higher than would be expected from the monocultures. Path analysis revealed that species richness predominantly regulates soil respiration through changes in productivity. No evidence supporting the hypothesized negative effect of lower N concentration on soil respiration was found. We conclude that shifts in productivity are the main mechanism by which changes in plant diversity may affect soil respiration.
Project description:The biodiversity-productivity relationship is still under debate for alpine grasslands on the Tibetan Plateau. We know little about direct and indirect effects of biotic and abiotic drivers on this relationship, especially in regard to plant functional trait diversity. Here, we examine how aboveground net primary productivity (ANPP) and precipitation use efficiency (PUE) respond to climate, soil and community structure across alpine grasslands on the Northern Tibetan Plateau. We found that both ANPP and PUE showed nonlinear patterns along water availability and site altitude variation, which together accounted for 80.3% and 68.8% of variation in ANPP and PUE, respectively, by optimal generalized additive models. Functional trait divergence (FTD) and community weighted mean (CWM) of plant functional traits were as important as plant species diversity (PSD) for explaining the nonlinear productivity-climate relationship. These findings were confirmed by results from principal component analyses and structural equation models. We also found that FTD was negatively correlated with PSD across different alpine grasslands. Our results implicate: first, the combinatorial influences of temperature and precipitation gradients are important for predicting alpine grassland dynamics; second, the convergence and divergence of plant functional traits may have the potential to elucidate the effect of plant diversity on ecosystem functionality.