Complementary effects of species and genetic diversity on productivity and stability of sown grasslands

  • Nature Plants 1, Article number: 15033 (2015)
  • doi:10.1038/nplants.2015.33
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Plant species diversity regulates the productivity1,​2,​3 and stability2,4 of natural ecosystems, along with their resilience to disturbance5,6. The influence of species diversity on the productivity of agronomic systems is less clear7,​8,​9,​10. Plant genetic diversity is also suspected to influence ecosystem function3,11,​12,​13,​14, although empirical evidence is scarce. Given the large range of genotypes that can be generated per species through artificial selection, genetic diversity is a potentially important leverage of productivity in cultivated systems. Here we assess the effect of species and genetic diversity on the production and sustainable supply of livestock fodder in sown grasslands, comprising single and multispecies assemblages characterized by different levels of genetic diversity, exposed to drought and non-drought conditions. Multispecies assemblages proved more productive than monocultures when subject to drought, regardless of the number of genotypes per species present. Conversely, the temporal stability of production increased only with the number of genotypes present under both drought and non-drought conditions, and was unaffected by the number of species. We conclude that taxonomic and genetic diversity can play complementary roles when it comes to optimizing livestock fodder production in managed grasslands, and suggest that both levels of diversity should be considered in plant breeding programmes designed to boost the productivity and resilience of managed grasslands in the face of increasing environmental hazards.

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We thank Mark Vellend (Université de Sherbrook) and Xavier Morin (UMR 5175 CEFE-CNRS) for their helpful comments. The URP3F technical team and particularly David Alletru, Brigitte Bonneau, Dominique Denoue, Magali Caillaud, Franck Gelin and Pascal Vernoux provided experimental assistance. The Agence National de la Recherche, France (PRAISE, ANR-13-BIOADAP-0015) funded this work. C.V. was supported by the European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant Project “Ecophysiological and biophysical constraints on domestication in crop plants” (Grant ERC-2014-StG-CONSTRAINTS).

Author information


  1. CNRS, CEFE UMR 5175, Université de Montpellier – Université Paul Valéry – EPHE, 1919 Route de Mende, Montpellier Cedex 5 34293, France

    • Iván Prieto
    •  & Cyrille Violle
  2. INRA, URP3F, RD 150, site du chêne, BP 86006, Lusignan 86600, France

    • Philippe Barre
    • , Jean-Louis Durand
    • , Marc Ghesquiere
    •  & Isabelle Litrico


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I.L. and P.B. designed the experiment and led the initial working group and set-up of the experiment. I.L. and P.B. collected the data and I.P. organized the dataset. I.P. and C.V. coordinated the analysis and write-up of the work and all authors contributed to writing a final version of the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Cyrille Violle or Isabelle Litrico.

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