Biodiversity across trophic levels drives multifunctionality in highly diverse forests

Andreas Schuldt, Thorsten Assmann, Matteo Brezzi, François Buscot, David Eichenberg, Jessica Gutknecht, Werner Härdtle, Jin Sheng He, Alexandra Maria Klein, Peter Kühn, Xiaojuan Liu, Keping Ma, Pascal A. Niklaus, Katherina A. Pietsch, Witoon Purahong, Michael Scherer-Lorenzen, Bernhard Schmid, Thomas Scholten, Michael Staab, Zhiyao TangStefan Trogisch, Goddert von Oheimb, Christian Wirth, Tesfaye Wubet, Chao Dong Zhu, Helge Bruelheide

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

153 Scopus citations


Human-induced biodiversity change impairs ecosystem functions crucial to human well-being. However, the consequences of this change for ecosystem multifunctionality are poorly understood beyond effects of plant species loss, particularly in regions with high biodiversity across trophic levels. Here we adopt a multitrophic perspective to analyze how biodiversity affects multifunctionality in biodiverse subtropical forests. We consider 22 independent measurements of nine ecosystem functions central to energy and nutrient flow across trophic levels. We find that individual functions and multifunctionality are more strongly affected by the diversity of heterotrophs promoting decomposition and nutrient cycling, and by plant functional-trait diversity and composition, than by tree species richness. Moreover, cascading effects of higher trophic-level diversity on functions originating from lower trophic-level processes highlight that multitrophic biodiversity is key to understanding drivers of multifunctionality. A broader perspective on biodiversity-multifunctionality relationships is crucial for sustainable ecosystem management in light of non-random species loss and intensified biotic disturbances under future environmental change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2989
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank the Administration Bureau of the Gutianshan National Nature Reserve and members of the BEF-China consortium for support, the many people involved in coordination and sampling (in particular M. Baruffol, M. Böhnke-Kammerlander, S. Both, N. Castro, C. Geißler, T. Fang, Y. Huang, W. Kröber, Z. Pei, X. Yang, and P. Zumstein). We thank two anonymous reviewers for constructive comments that helped to improve the manuscript. We gratefully acknowledge funding by the German Research Foundation (DFG FOR 891/1–3), the Sino-German Centre for Research Promotion (GZ 524, 592, 698, 699, 785, and 1020), and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC 30710103907 and 30930005). We acknowledge the financial support of the Open Access Publication Fund of the Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg. A.S. acknowledges support by the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig (DFG FZT 118). In memory of Matteo Brezzi, who tragically passed away in March 2018.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018, The Author(s).


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