Abstract

The effects of biodiversity on ecosystem functioning generally increase over time, but the underlying processes remain unclear. Using 26 long-term grassland and forest experimental ecosystems, we demonstrate that biodiversity–ecosystem functioning relationships strengthen mainly by greater increases in functioning in high-diversity communities in grasslands and forests. In grasslands, biodiversity effects also strengthen due to decreases in functioning in low-diversity communities. Contrasting trends across grasslands are associated with differences in soil characteristics.

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Acknowledgements

This study was supported by the German Research Foundation through the Emmy Noether research group (Ei 862/2), a European Research Council starting grant (grant agreement 677232) provided to N.E. and financial support from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig (FZT 118). The Jena Experiment is funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (FOR 1451). Support for BioCON came from the US National Science Foundation (NSF) Long-Term Ecological Research (DEB-9411972, DEB-0080382, DEB-0620652 and DEB-1234162), Biocomplexity Coupled Biogeochemical Cycles (DEB-0322057), Long-Term Research in Environmental Biology (DEB-0716587, DEB-1242531) and Ecosystem Sciences (NSF DEB- 1120064) Programs; as well as the US Department of Energy Programs for Ecosystem Research (DE-FG02-96ER62291) and National Institute for Climatic Change Research (DE-FC02-06ER64158). N.R.G.-R. thanks D. Binkley, A. Weigelt and E. De Luca for contributing data, S. Bilodeau-Gauthier for support with the database and P. Keil for help with data analysis.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), Halle-Jena-Leipzig, Leipzig, 04103, Germany

    • Nathaly R. Guerrero-Ramírez
    • , Dylan Craven
    • , Harald Auge
    • , Christiane Roscher
    •  & Nico Eisenhauer
  2. Institute of Biology, Leipzig University, Leipzig, 04103, Germany

    • Nathaly R. Guerrero-Ramírez
    •  & Nico Eisenhauer
  3. Department of Community Ecology, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research–UFZ, Halle, 06120, Germany

    • Dylan Craven
    •  & Harald Auge
  4. Department of Forest Resources, University of Minnesota, Saint Paul, MN, 55108, USA

    • Peter B. Reich
  5. Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment, Western Sydney University, Richmond, New South Wales, 2753, Australia

    • Peter B. Reich
  6. Department of Biology, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, 32611, USA

    • John J. Ewel
  7. Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, University of Minnesota, Saint Paul, MN, 55108, USA

    • Forest Isbell
    •  & David Tilman
  8. School of Biological Sciences, Royal Holloway University of London, Egham, Surrey, TW20 0EX, UK

    • Julia Koricheva
  9. United States Forest Service, Washington, DC, 20250-1120, USA

    • John A. Parrotta
  10. Consulting Research Ecology, Portland, OR, 97212, USA

    • Heather E. Erickson
  11. United States Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, Portland, OR, 97205, USA

    • Heather E. Erickson
  12. Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL, Birmensdorf, CH-8903, Switzerland

    • David I. Forrester
  13. Department of Plant Sciences, University of Oxford, Oxford, OX1 3RB, UK

    • Andy Hector
  14. Biodiversity Research/Systematic Botany, University of Potsdam, Potsdam, 14469, Germany

    • Jasmin Joshi
  15. Berlin-Brandenburg Institute of Advanced Biodiversity Research (BBIB), Berlin, 14195, Germany

    • Jasmin Joshi
  16. School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University, New Haven, CT, 06511, USA

    • Florencia Montagnini
  17. Department of Agricultural Research for Northern Sweden, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Umeå, 90183, Sweden

    • Cecilia Palmborg
  18. Centro de Formação em Ciências Agroflorestais, Universidade Federal do Sul da Bahia, Itabuna-BA, 45613-204, Brazil

    • Daniel Piotto
  19. Department of Biology, McGill University, Montréal, Québec, H3A-1B1, Canada

    • Catherine Potvin
  20. Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Balboa Ancon, 0843-03092, Republic of Panama

    • Catherine Potvin
  21. Department of Physiological Diversity, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Leipzig, 04103, Germany

    • Christiane Roscher
  22. Plant Ecology and Nature Conservation Group, Wageningen University, PO Box 47, 6700 AA, Wageningen, The Netherlands

    • Jasper van Ruijven
  23. Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA, 93108, USA

    • David Tilman
  24. Department of Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology, Iowa State University, Ames, IA, 50011, USA

    • Brian Wilsey

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Contributions

N.E. conceived the idea. N.E. and N.R.G.-R. developed the idea. A.H., B.W., C.Palmborg, C.Potvin, C.R., D.I.F., D.P., D.T., F.M., H.A., H.E.E., J.J.E., J.J., J.K., J.A.P., J.v.R. and P.B.R. contributed experimental data. N.R.G.-R. assembled the data. N.R.G.-R. and D.C. analysed the data with input from F.I., J.K. and A.H. N.R.G.-R. wrote the paper with substantial input from all authors.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Nathaly R. Guerrero-Ramírez.

Electronic supplementary material

  1. Supplementary Information

    Supplementary figures, tables, methods, references and code.