Foliar fungi and plant diversity drive ecosystem carbon fluxes in experimental prairies

Mayank Kohli, Jeremiah A. Henning, Elizabeth T. Borer, Linda Kinkel, Eric W. Seabloom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Plant diversity and plant–consumer/pathogen interactions likely interact to influence ecosystem carbon fluxes but experimental evidence is scarce. We examined how experimental removal of foliar fungi, soil fungi and arthropods from experimental prairies planted with 1, 4 or 16 plant species affected instantaneous rates of carbon uptake (GPP), ecosystem respiration (Re) and net ecosystem exchange (NEE). Increasing plant diversity increased plant biomass, GPP and Re, but NEE remained unchanged. Removing foliar fungi increased GPP and NEE, with the greatest effects at low plant diversity. After accounting for plant biomass, we found that removing foliar fungi increased mass-specific flux rates in the low-diversity plant communities by altering plant species composition and community-wide foliar nitrogen content. However, this effect disappeared when soil fungi and arthropods were also removed, demonstrating that both plant diversity and interactions among consumer groups determine the ecosystem-scale effects of plant–fungal interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)487-497
Number of pages11
JournalEcology letters
Issue number3
StateAccepted/In press - 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by grants from the US National Science Foundation Long‐Term Ecological Research Program (LTER) including DEB‐1234162 and DEB‐1831944. Funding from the UMN Graduate School, from EEB and Cedar Creek supported MK. We are grateful to Troy Mielke, Jon Anderson, Anita Krause, Susan Barrott and Dan Bahauddin for logistical support, Sarah Hobbie and Forest Isbell for comments on the manuscript, Evelyn Hayhurst, Katherine Schroeder, Megan Wilcots, Lucas Bowerman and Cedar Creek interns for their help in data collection.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 John Wiley & Sons Ltd/CNRS

Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • biodiversity loss
  • biodiversity-ecosystem function
  • consumer effects
  • ecosystem CO fluxes
  • plant-herbivore interaction
  • plant-pathogen interaction

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Letter


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