Spatial heterogeneity in species composition constrains plant community responses to herbivory and fertilisation

Dorothee Hodapp, Elizabeth T. Borer, W. Stanley Harpole, Eric M. Lind, Eric W. Seabloom, Peter B. Adler, Juan Alberti, Carlos A. Arnillas, Jonathan D. Bakker, Lori Biederman, Marc Cadotte, Elsa E. Cleland, Scott Collins, Philip A. Fay, Jennifer Firn, Nicole Hagenah, Yann Hautier, Oscar Iribarne, Johannes M.H. Knops, Rebecca L. McCulleyAndrew MacDougall, Joslin L. Moore, John W. Morgan, Brent Mortensen, Kimberly J. La Pierre, Anita C. Risch, Martin Schütz, Pablo Peri, Carly J. Stevens, Justin Wright, Helmut Hillebrand

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Environmental change can result in substantial shifts in community composition. The associated immigration and extinction events are likely constrained by the spatial distribution of species. Still, studies on environmental change typically quantify biotic responses at single spatial (time series within a single plot) or temporal (spatial beta diversity at single time points) scales, ignoring their potential interdependence. Here, we use data from a global network of grassland experiments to determine how turnover responses to two major forms of environmental change – fertilisation and herbivore loss – are affected by species pool size and spatial compositional heterogeneity. Fertilisation led to higher rates of local extinction, whereas turnover in herbivore exclusion plots was driven by species replacement. Overall, sites with more spatially heterogeneous composition showed significantly higher rates of annual turnover, independent of species pool size and treatment. Taking into account spatial biodiversity aspects will therefore improve our understanding of consequences of global and anthropogenic change on community dynamics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1364-1371
Number of pages8
JournalEcology Letters
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
DH and HH acknowledge funding by the Ministry of Science and Culture, State of Lower Saxony, through the project BEFmate. 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. Borer and E. Seabloom from the National Science Foundation

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 John Wiley & Sons Ltd/CNRS


  • Beta diversity
  • Nutrient Network (NutNet)
  • diversity
  • fertilisation
  • grassland
  • nitrogen
  • spatial heterogeneity
  • species composition
  • temporal turnover

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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