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A decade of insights into grassland ecosystem responses to global environmental change

Nature Ecology & Evolution volume 1, Article number: 0118 (2017) | Download Citation

Abstract

Earth's biodiversity and carbon uptake by plants, or primary productivity, are intricately interlinked, underlie many essential ecosystem processes, and depend on the interplay among environmental factors, many of which are being changed by human activities. While ecological theory generalizes across taxa and environments, most empirical tests of factors controlling diversity and productivity have been observational, single-site experiments, or meta-analyses, limiting our understanding of variation among site-level responses and tests of general mechanisms. A synthesis of results from ten years of a globally distributed, coordinated experiment, the Nutrient Network (NutNet), demonstrates that species diversity promotes ecosystem productivity and stability, and that nutrient supply and herbivory control diversity via changes in composition, including invasions of non-native species and extinction of native species. Distributed experimental networks are a powerful tool for tests and integration of multiple theories and for generating multivariate predictions about the effects of global changes on future ecosystems.

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Acknowledgements

We thank each of the researchers who have contributed data and ideas to the Nutrient Network (http://www.nutnet.org), Supplementary Table 1 lists contributing sites (2007–2016). Grants to E.T.B. and E.W.S. from the National Science Foundation (NSF-DEB-1042132, NSF-DEB-1234162), and the Institute on the Environment (DG-0001-13) supported parts of this work. J.B.G. was supported by the USGS Ecosystems and Climate and Land Use Change programmes.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, University of Minnesota, 1479 Gortner Avenue, 140 Gortner Laboratory, Saint Paul, Minnesota 55108, USA.

    • Elizabeth T. Borer
    •  & Eric W. Seabloom
  2. US Geological Survey, Wetland and Aquatic Research Center, 700 Cajundome Boulevard, Lafayette, Louisiana 70506, USA.

    • James B. Grace
  3. Department of Physiological Diversity, Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research – UFZ, Permoserstrasse 15, 04318 Leipzig, Germany.

    • W. Stanley Harpole
  4. German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), Deutscher Platz 5e, 04103 Leipzig, Germany.

    • W. Stanley Harpole
  5. Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Am Kirchtor 1, 06108 Halle (Saale), Germany.

    • W. Stanley Harpole
  6. Department of Integrative Biology, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario N1G 2W1, Canada.

    • Andrew S. MacDougall

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Contributions

E.T.B. conceived and drafted the manuscript; J.B.G., W.S.H., A.S.M. and E.W.S. contributed to writing.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Elizabeth T. Borer.

Supplementary information

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  1. 1.

    Supplementary Information

    List of Nutrient Network contributing sites.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-017-0118

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