Diversifying livestock promotes multidiversity and multifunctionality in managed grasslands

Ling Wang, Manuel Delgado-Baquerizo, Deli Wang, Forest Isbell, Jun Liu, Chao Feng, Jushan Liu, Zhiwei Zhong, Hui Zhu, Xia Yuan, Qing Chang, Chen Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

215 Scopus citations


Increasing plant diversity can increase ecosystem functioning, stability, and services in both natural and managed grasslands, but the effects of herbivore diversity, and especially of livestock diversity, remain underexplored. Given that managed grazing is the most extensive land use worldwide, and that land managers can readily change livestock diversity, we experimentally tested how livestock diversification (sheep, cattle, or both) influenced multidiversity (the diversity of plants, insects, soil microbes, and nematodes) and ecosystem multifunctionality (including plant biomass production, plant leaf N and P, above-ground insect abundance, nutrient cycling, soil C stocks, water regulation, and plant-microbe symbiosis) in the world's largest remaining grassland. We also considered the potential dependence of ecosystem multifunctionality on multidiversity. We found that livestock diversification substantially increased ecosystem multifunctionality by increasing multidiversity. The link between multidiversity and ecosystem multifunctionality was always stronger than the link between single diversity components and functions. Our work provides insights into the importance of multitrophic diversity to maintain multifunctionality in managed ecosystems and suggests that diversifying livestock could promote both multidiversity and ecosystem multifunctionality in an increasingly managed world.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6187-6192
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number13
StatePublished - Mar 26 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS. We thank B. Schmid for comments on earlier versions of the manuscript; and G. Zhang, X. Liu, Y. Zhang, and C. Cui for help with the field work. This work was supported by the National Key Research and Development Program of China (2016YFC0500602), National Natural Science Foundation of China (31230012, 31772652, and 31770520), and the Program for Introducing Talents to Universities (B16011). M.D.-B. also acknowledges support from the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions of the Horizon 2020 Framework Program H2020-MSCA-IF-2016 under Grant Agreement 702057.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 National Academy of Sciences. All Rights Reserved.


  • Ecosystem multifunctionality
  • Grassland grazing management
  • Livestock diversity
  • Mixed grazing
  • Multiple trophic diversity
  • Grassland
  • Biodiversity
  • Animal Husbandry/methods
  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Ecosystem
  • Sheep
  • Livestock
  • Conservation of Natural Resources/methods

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Journal Article


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