Productivity–biodiversity relationships depend on the history of community assembly


Identification of the causes of productivity–species diversity relationships remains a central topic of ecological research1,2. Different relations have been attributed to the influence of disturbance3,4, consumers5,6, niche specialization7 and spatial scale8,9,10,11,12,13,14. One unexplored cause is the history of community assembly, the partly stochastic sequential arrival of species from a regional pool of potential community members. The sequence of species arrival can greatly affect community structure15,16,17,18,19. If assembly sequence interacts with productivity to influence diversity, different sequences can contribute to variation in productivity–diversity relationships. Here we report a test of this hypothesis by assembling aquatic microbial communities at five productivity levels using four assembly sequences. About 30 generations after assembly, productivity–diversity relationships took various forms, including a positive, a hump-shaped, a U-shaped and a non-significant pattern, depending on assembly sequence. This variation resulted from idiosyncratic joint effects of assembly sequence, productivity and species identity on species abundances. We suggest that the history of community assembly should be added to the growing list of factors that influence productivity–biodiversity patterns.

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Figure 1: Response of species diversity to productivity.
Figure 2: Response of the abundance of Uronema sp. to productivity and assembly sequence on day 25.


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We thank members of the Morin laboratory for discussion, and J. A. Drake, C. M. K. Kaunzinger, M. A. Leibold, Z. T. Long, P. B. Rainey and D. Simberloff for comments. The National Science Foundation and the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Tennessee supported this research.

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Correspondence to Tadashi Fukami.

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The authors declare that they have no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information: This file contains supplementary information on the following: regression analysis, MOS test, species richness, population dynamics, comparison of assembly in our study and assembly in nature, and local and regional diversity. (DOC 220 kb)

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