Eutrophication weakens stabilizing effects of diversity in natural grasslands

Yann Hautier, Eric W. Seabloom, Elizabeth T. Borer, Peter B. Adler, W. Stanley Harpole, Helmut Hillebrand, Eric M. Lind, Andrew S. MacDougall, Carly J. Stevens, Jonathan D. Bakker, Yvonne M. Buckley, Chengjin Chu, Scott L. Collins, Pedro Daleo, Ellen I. Damschen, Kendi F. Davies, Philip A. Fay, Jennifer Firn, Daniel S. Gruner, Virginia L. JinJulia A. Klein, Johannes M.H. Knops, Kimberly J. La Pierre, Wei Li, Rebecca L. McCulley, Brett A. Melbourne, Joslin L. Moore, Lydia R. O'Halloran, Suzanne M. Prober, Anita C. Risch, Mahesh Sankaran, Martin Schuetz, Andy Hector

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

388 Scopus citations


Studies of experimental grassland communities have demonstrated that plant diversity can stabilize productivity through species asynchrony, in which decreases in the biomass of some species are compensated for by increases in others. However, it remains unknown whether these findings are relevant to natural ecosystems, especially those for which species diversity is threatened by anthropogenic global change. Here we analyse diversity-stability relationships from 41 grasslands on five continents and examine how these relationships are affected by chronic fertilization, one of the strongest drivers of species loss globally. Unmanipulated communities with more species had greater species asynchrony, resulting in more stable biomass production, generalizing a result from biodiversity experiments to real-world grasslands. However, fertilization weakened the positive effect of diversity on stability. Contrary to expectations, this was not due to species loss after eutrophication but rather to an increase in the temporal variation of productivity in combination with a decrease in species asynchrony in diverse communities. Our results demonstrate separate and synergistic effects of diversity and eutrophication on stability, emphasizing the need to understand how drivers of global change interactively affect the reliable provisioning of ecosystem services in real-world systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)521-525
Number of pages5
Issue number7497
StatePublished - 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement no. 298935 to Y.H. (with A.H. and E.W.S.). This work was generated using data from the Nutrient Network ( experiment, funded at the site-scale by individual researchers. Coordination and data management have been supported by funding to E.T.B. and E.W.S. from the National Science Foundation Research Coordination Network (NSF-DEB-1042132), the Long Term Ecological Research(LTER)programme(NSF-DEB-1234162toCedarCreekaswellasother LTER sites), and the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota (DG-0001-13). We also thank the Minnesota Supercomputer Institute for hosting project data, and the Institute on the Environment for hosting Network meetings. We thank R.S.L. Veiga, F. Isbell, R.K. Didham, H. McGinness and M. O’Brien for suggestions that improved the manuscript.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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