Integrative modelling reveals mechanisms linking productivity and plant species richness

Grace, James B., Andersen, T. Michael, Seabloom, Eric W., Borer, Elizabeth T., Adler, Peter B., Harpole, W. Stanley, Hautier, Yann, Hillebrand, Helmut, Lind, Eric M., Pärtel, Meelis, Bakker, Jonathan D., Buckley, Yvonne M., Crawley, Michael J., Damschen, Ellen I., Davies, Kendi F., Fay, Philip A., Firn, Jennifer, Gruner, Daniel S., Hector, Andy, Knops, Johannes M. H., MacDougall, Andrew S., Melbourne, Brett A., Morgan, John W., Orrock, John L., Prober, Suzanne M., & Smith, Melinda D. (2016) Integrative modelling reveals mechanisms linking productivity and plant species richness. Nature, 529, pp. 390-393.

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Abstract

How ecosystem productivity and species richness are interrelated is one of the most debated subjects in the history of ecology1. Decades of intensive study have yet to discern the actual mechanisms behind observed global patterns2, 3. Here, by integrating the predictions from multiple theories into a single model and using data from 1,126 grassland plots spanning five continents, we detect the clear signals of numerous underlying mechanisms linking productivity and richness. We find that an integrative model has substantially higher explanatory power than traditional bivariate analyses. In addition, the specific results unveil several surprising findings that conflict with classical models4, 5, 6, 7. These include the isolation of a strong and consistent enhancement of productivity by richness, an effect in striking contrast with superficial data patterns. Also revealed is a consistent importance of competition across the full range of productivity values, in direct conflict with some (but not all) proposed models. The promotion of local richness by macroecological gradients in climatic favourability, generally seen as a competing hypothesis8, is also found to be important in our analysis. The results demonstrate that an integrative modelling approach leads to a major advance in our ability to discern the underlying processes operating in ecological systems.

Impact and interest:

24 citations in Scopus
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12 citations in Web of Science®

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ID Code: 96504
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: biodiversity, ecosystem function, Nutrient Network, Structural equation models, hump backed models
DOI: 10.1038/nature16524
ISSN: 1476-4687
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES (060000) > ECOLOGY (060200) > Community Ecology (060202)
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Earth, Environmental & Biological Sciences
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Science & Engineering Faculty
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2016 Macmillan Publishers Limited
Deposited On: 04 Jul 2016 00:00
Last Modified: 13 Jul 2016 03:51

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