Plant diversity and ecosystem multifunctionality peak at intermediate levels of woody cover in global drylands

Soliveres, Santiago; Maestre, Fernando T.; Eldridge, David J.; Delgado-Baquerizo, Manuel; Quero, José Luis; Bowker, Matthew A.; Gallardo, Antonio (2014). Plant diversity and ecosystem multifunctionality peak at intermediate levels of woody cover in global drylands. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 23(12), pp. 1408-1416. Wiley-Blackwell 10.1111/geb.12215

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Aim The global spread of woody plants into grasslands is predicted to increase over the coming century. While there is general agreement regarding the anthropogenic causes of this phenomenon, its ecological consequences are less certain. We analysed how woody vegetation of differing cover affects plant diversity (richness and evenness) and the surrogates of multiple ecosystem processes (multifunctionality) in global drylands, and how these change with aridity. Location Two hundred and twenty-four dryland sites from all continents except Antarctica, widely differing in their environmental conditions (from arid to dry-subhumid sites) and relative woody cover (from 0 to 100). Methods Using a standardized field survey, we measured the cover, richness and evenness of perennial vegetation. At each site, we measured 14 soil variables related to fertility and the build-up of nutrient pools. These variables are critical for maintaining ecosystem functioning in drylands. Results Species richness and ecosystem multifunctionality were strongly related to woody vegetation, with both variables peaking at a relative woody cover (RWC) of 41–60. This relationship shifted with aridity. We observed linear positive effects of RWC in dry-subhumid sites. These positive trends shifted to hump-shaped RWC–diversity and multifunctionality relationships under semi-arid environments. Finally, hump-shaped (richness, evenness) or linear negative (multifunctionality) effects of RWC were found under the most arid conditions. Main conclusions Plant diversity and multifunctionality peaked at intermediate levels of woody cover, although this relationship became increasingly positive in wetter environments. This comprehensive study accounts for multiple ecosystem attributes across a range of levels of woody cover and environmental conditions. Our results help us to reconcile contrasting views of woody encroachment found in the current literature and can be used to improve predictions of the likely effects of encroachment on biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)

Division/Institute:

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

UniBE Contributor:

Soliveres, Santiago

Subjects:

500 Science > 580 Plants (Botany)

ISSN:

1466-822X

Publisher:

Wiley-Blackwell

Language:

English

Submitter:

Peter Alfred von Ballmoos-Haas

Date Deposited:

01 Dec 2014 09:50

Last Modified:

23 May 2017 16:39

Publisher DOI:

10.1111/geb.12215

Uncontrolled Keywords:

Aridity, semi-arid, shrub encroachment, soil, species evenness, species richness, thicketization

BORIS DOI:

10.7892/boris.60214

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/60214

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