Studies of experimental grassland communities1,2,3,4,5,6,7 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 others1,2. However, it remains unknown whether these findings are relevant to natural ecosystems, especially those for which species diversity is threatened by anthropogenic global change8,9,10,11. 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 globally8. 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.

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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 (http://www.nutnet.org) 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-1234162 to Cedar Creek as well as other 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.

Author information


  1. Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, University of Minnesota, St Paul, Minnesota 55108, USA

    • Yann Hautier
    • , Eric W. Seabloom
    • , Elizabeth T. Borer
    •  & Eric M. Lind
  2. Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies, University of Zurich, 8057 Zurich, Switzerland

    • Yann Hautier
  3. Department of Wildland Resources and the Ecology Center, Utah State University, Logan, Utah 84322, USA

    • Peter B. Adler
  4. Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa 50011, USA

    • W. Stanley Harpole
  5. Institute for Chemistry and Biology of the Marine Environment, Carl-von-Ossietzky University Oldenburg, D-26111 Oldenburg, Germany

    • Helmut Hillebrand
  6. Department of Integrative Biology, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario N1G 2W1, Canada

    • Andrew S. MacDougall
  7. Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, Lancaster LA1 4YQ, UK

    • Carly J. Stevens
  8. School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195, USA

    • Jonathan D. Bakker
  9. Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions, School of Biological Sciences, The University of Queensland, Queensland 4072, Australia

    • Yvonne M. Buckley
  10. School of Natural Sciences, Department of Zoology, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin 2, Ireland

    • Yvonne M. Buckley
  11. State Key Laboratory of Grassland and Agro-Ecosystems, Research Station of Alpine Meadow and Wetland Ecosystems, School of Life Sciences, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou 730000, China

    • Chengjin Chu
  12. Department of Biology, MSC03-2020, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87131, USA

    • Scott L. Collins
  13. Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas y Costeras (IIMyC) (CONICET-UNMdP), Mar del Plata 7600, Argentina

    • Pedro Daleo
  14. Department of Zoology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, USA

    • Ellen I. Damschen
  15. Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado 80309, USA

    • Kendi F. Davies
    •  & Brett A. Melbourne
  16. United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service, Grassland Soil and Water Research Lab, Temple, Texas 76502, USA

    • Philip A. Fay
  17. Queensland University of Technology, School of Biological Sciences, Brisbane 4000, Australia

    • Jennifer Firn
  18. Department of Entomology, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland 20742, USA

    • Daniel S. Gruner
  19. United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service, Agroecosystem Management Research Unit, Lincoln, Nebraska 68583, USA

    • Virginia L. Jin
  20. Department of Forest, Rangeland and Watershed Stewardship, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado 80523, USA

    • Julia A. Klein
  21. School of Biological Sciences, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska 68588, USA

    • Johannes M. H. Knops
  22. Berkeley Initiative for Global Change Biology, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720, USA

    • Kimberly J. La Pierre
  23. Yunnan Academy of Biodiversity, Southwest Forestry University, Kunming 650224, China

    • Wei Li
  24. Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky 40546, USA

    • Rebecca L. McCulley
  25. Australian Research Centre for Urban Ecology, Melbourne, c/o School of Botany, University of Melbourne, Victoria 3010, Australia

    • Joslin L. Moore
  26. School of Biological Sciences, Monash University, Victoria 3800, Australia

    • Joslin L. Moore
  27. Department of Zoology, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon 97331, USA

    • Lydia R. O’Halloran
  28. CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences, Wembley, WA 6913, Australia

    • Suzanne M. Prober
  29. Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research, 8903 Birmensdorf, Switzerland

    • Anita C. Risch
    •  & Martin Schuetz
  30. School of Biology, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK

    • Mahesh Sankaran
  31. National Centre for Biological Sciences, GKVK Campus, Bangalore 560065, India

    • Mahesh Sankaran
  32. Department of Plant Sciences, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 3RB, UK

    • Andy Hector


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E.W.S., E.T.B., W.S.H. and E.M.L. are Nutrient Network coordinators. Y.H. and A.H. developed and framed research questions. Y.H., E.W.S., E.T.B., P.B.A., W.S.H., H.H., A.S.MD., C.J.S., J.D.B., Y.M.B., C.C., S.L.C., E.I.D., K.F.D., P.A.F., J.F., D.S.G., V.L.J., J.A.K., J.M.H.K., K.J.L., W.L., R.L.McC., B.A.M., J.L.M., S.M.P., A.C.R., M.S., M.S. and A.H. collected the data used in this analysis. Y.H. and A.H. analysed the data. E.W.S., E.T.B., H.H., E.M.L., P.D., K.J.L., J.L.M., L.R.O. and M.S. contributed to data analyses. Y.H. and A.H. wrote the paper with input from all authors.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Yann Hautier.

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