Limited evidence for spatial resource partitioning across temperate grassland biodiversity experiments
SourceEcology, 101, 1, (2020), article e02905
Article / Letter to editor
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Experimental Plant Ecology
Abstract Locally, plant species richness supports many ecosystem functions. Yet, the mechanisms driving these often-positive biodiversity?ecosystem functioning relationships are not well understood. Spatial resource partitioning across vertical resource gradients is one of the main hypothesized causes for enhanced ecosystem functioning in more biodiverse grasslands. Spatial resource partitioning occurs if species differ in where they acquire resources and can happen both above- and belowground. However, studies investigating spatial resource partitioning in grasslands provide inconsistent evidence. We present the results of a meta-analysis of 21 data sets from experimental species-richness gradients in grasslands. We test the hypothesis that increasing spatial resource partitioning along vertical resource gradients enhances ecosystem functioning in diverse grassland plant communities above- and belowground. To test this hypothesis, we asked three questions. (1) Does species richness enhance biomass production or community resource uptake across sites? (2) Is there evidence of spatial resource partitioning as indicated by resource tracer uptake and biomass allocation above- and belowground? (3) Is evidence of spatial resource partitioning correlated with increased biomass production or community resource uptake? Although plant species richness enhanced community nitrogen and potassium uptake and biomass production above- and belowground, we found that plant communities did not meet our criteria for spatial resource partitioning, though they did invest in significantly more aboveground biomass in higher canopy layers in mixture relative to monoculture. Furthermore, the extent of spatial resource partitioning across studies was not positively correlated with either biomass production or community resource uptake. Our results suggest that spatial resource partitioning across vertical resource gradients alone does not offer a general explanation for enhanced ecosystem functioning in more diverse temperate grasslands.
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