Rapid evolution allows plant communities to regain stability after simulated species loss

Sofia J. van Moorsel, Terhi Hahl, Owen L. Petchey, Anne Ebeling, Nico Eisenhauer, Bernhard Schmid and Cameron Wagg

Sep 13, 2019
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Received Date: 3rd September 19

Experiments simulating species loss from grassland ecosystems have shown that losing biodiversity decreases the ability of ecosystems to buffer disturbances. However, plant or plant-soil evolutionary processes may allow ecosystems to regain stability and resilience over time. We explored such effects in a long-term grassland biodiversity experiment. Low diversity communities of plants with a history of co-occurrence (selected communities) were temporally more stable than the same communities of plants with no such history (naïve communities). Furthermore, selected communities showed greater recovery following a major flood, resulting in more stable post-flood productivity. These results were consistent across soil treatments simulating the presence or absence of co-selected microbial communities. We suggest that plant evolution in a community context can increase ecosystem temporal stability and resistance to disturbances. Evolution can thus in part compensate for extreme species loss as can high plant diversity in part compensate for the missing opportunity of evolutionary adjustments.

Read in full at bioRxiv.

This is an abstract of a preprint hosted on an independent third party site. It has not been peer reviewed but is currently under consideration at Nature Communications.

Nature Communications

Nature Research, Springer Nature