Discontinuity in the responses of ecosystem processes and multifunctionality to altered soil community composition

Bradford, Mark A.; Wood, Stephen A.; Bardgett, Richard D.; Black, Helaina I. J.; Bonkowski, Michael; Eggers, Till; Grayston, Susan J.; Kandeler, Ellen; Manning, Peter; Setala, Heikki; Jones, T. Hefin (2014). Discontinuity in the responses of ecosystem processes and multifunctionality to altered soil community composition. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America - PNAS, 111(40), pp. 14478-14483. National Academy of Sciences NAS 10.1073/pnas.1413707111

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Ecosystem management policies increasingly emphasize provision of multiple, as opposed to single, ecosystem services. Management for such "multifunctionality" has stimulated research into the role that biodiversity plays in providing desired rates of multiple ecosystem processes. Positive effects of biodiversity on indices of multifunctionality are consistently found, primarily because species that are redundant for one ecosystem process under a given set of environmental conditions play a distinct role under different conditions or in the provision of another ecosystem process. Here we show that the positive effects of diversity (specifically community composition) on multifunctionality indices can also arise from a statistical fallacy analogous to Simpson's paradox (where aggregating data obscures causal relationships). We manipulated soil faunal community composition in combination with nitrogen fertilization of model grassland ecosystems and repeatedly measured five ecosystem processes related to plant productivity, carbon storage, and nutrient turnover. We calculated three common multifunctionality indices based on these processes and found that the functional complexity of the soil communities had a consistent positive effect on the indices. However, only two of the five ecosystem processes also responded positively to increasing complexity, whereas the other three responded neutrally or negatively. Furthermore, none of the individual processes responded to both the complexity and the nitrogen manipulations in a manner consistent with the indices. Our data show that multifunctionality indices can obscure relationships that exist between communities and key ecosystem processes, leading us to question their use in advancing theoretical understanding-and in management decisions-about how biodiversity is related to the provision of multiple ecosystem services.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)

Division/Institute:

08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS) > Plant Ecology
08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS)

UniBE Contributor:

Manning, Peter

Subjects:

500 Science > 580 Plants (Botany)

ISSN:

0027-8424

Publisher:

National Academy of Sciences NAS

Language:

English

Submitter:

Peter Alfred von Ballmoos-Haas

Date Deposited:

07 Nov 2014 17:26

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2015 11:31

Publisher DOI:

10.1073/pnas.1413707111

Uncontrolled Keywords:

aboveground-belowground interactions, ecosystem functioning, plant-soil feedbacks, soil biodiversity, soil fauna

BORIS DOI:

10.7892/boris.59935

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/59935

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