General destabilizing effects of eutrophication on grassland productivity at multiple spatial scales

Yann Hautier, Pengfei Zhang, Michel Loreau, Kevin R. Wilcox, Eric W. Seabloom, Elizabeth T. Borer, Jarrett E.K. Byrnes, Sally E. Koerner, Kimberly J. Komatsu, Jonathan S. Lefcheck, Andy Hector, Peter B. Adler, Juan Alberti, Carlos A. Arnillas, Jonathan D. Bakker, Lars A. Brudvig, Miguel N. Bugalho, Marc Cadotte, Maria C. Caldeira, Oliver CarrollMick Crawley, Scott L. Collins, Pedro Daleo, Laura E. Dee, Nico Eisenhauer, Anu Eskelinen, Philip A. Fay, Benjamin Gilbert, Amandine Hansar, Forest Isbell, Johannes M.H. Knops, Andrew S. MacDougall, Rebecca L. McCulley, Joslin L. Moore, John W. Morgan, Akira S. Mori, Pablo L. Peri, Edwin T. Pos, Sally A. Power, Jodi N. Price, Peter B. Reich, Anita C. Risch, Christiane Roscher, Mahesh Sankaran, Martin Schütz, Melinda Smith, Carly Stevens, Pedro M. Tognetti, Risto Virtanen, Glenda M. Wardle, Peter A. Wilfahrt, Shaopeng Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


Eutrophication is a widespread environmental change that usually reduces the stabilizing effect of plant diversity on productivity in local communities. Whether this effect is scale dependent remains to be elucidated. Here, we determine the relationship between plant diversity and temporal stability of productivity for 243 plant communities from 42 grasslands across the globe and quantify the effect of chronic fertilization on these relationships. Unfertilized local communities with more plant species exhibit greater asynchronous dynamics among species in response to natural environmental fluctuations, resulting in greater local stability (alpha stability). Moreover, neighborhood communities that have greater spatial variation in plant species composition within sites (higher beta diversity) have greater spatial asynchrony of productivity among communities, resulting in greater stability at the larger scale (gamma stability). Importantly, fertilization consistently weakens the contribution of plant diversity to both of these stabilizing mechanisms, thus diminishing the positive effect of biodiversity on stability at differing spatial scales. Our findings suggest that preserving grassland functional stability requires conservation of plant diversity within and among ecological communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number5375
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 23 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Union. Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement no. 298935 to Y.H. (with A.H. and E.W.S.). This work was generated using data from the Nutrient Network collaborative experiment, funded at the site scale by individual researchers and coordinated through Research Coordination Network funding from NSF to E.B. and E.W.S. (grant #DEB-0741952). Nitrogen fertilizer was donated to the Nutrient Network by Crop Production Services, Loveland, CO. We acknowledge support from the LTER Network Communications Office and DEB-1545288. M.L. was supported by the TULIP Laboratory of Excellence (ANR-10-LABX-41), and by the BIOSTASES Advanced Grant funded by the European Research Council under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement no. 666971). S.W. was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31988102). We thank Rita S. L. Veiga and George A. Kowalchuk for suggestions that improved the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, The Author(s).


  • Biodiversity
  • Biomass
  • Biota
  • Ecosystem
  • Eutrophication
  • Fertilization
  • Grassland
  • Models, Biological
  • Plants

PubMed: MeSH publication types

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


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