Low biodiversity state persists two decades after cessation of nutrient enrichment

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

81 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Although nutrient enrichment frequently decreases biodiversity, it remains unclear whether such biodiversity losses are readily reversible, or are critical transitions between alternative low- and high-diversity stable states that could be difficult to reverse. Our 30-year grassland experiment shows that plant diversity decreased well below control levels after 10 years of chronic high rates (95-270 kg N ha-1 year-1) of nitrogen addition, and did not recover to control levels 20 years after nitrogen addition ceased. Furthermore, we found a hysteretic response of plant diversity to increases and subsequent decreases in soil nitrate concentrations. Our results suggest that chronic nutrient enrichment created an alternative low-diversity state that persisted despite decreases in soil nitrate after cessation of nitrogen addition, and despite supply of propagules from nearby high-diversity plots. Thus, the regime shifts between alternative stable states that have been reported for some nutrient-enriched aquatic ecosystems may also occur in grasslands.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)454-460
Number of pages7
JournalEcology Letters
Volume16
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2013

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nutrient enrichment
eutrophication
biodiversity
nitrogen
grasslands
grassland
nitrates
nitrate
aquatic ecosystem
plant response
soil
nutrient
nutrients
experiment

Keywords

  • Alternative stable states
  • Fertilisation
  • Grasslands
  • Hysteresis
  • Nitrogen deposition
  • Recovery
  • Regime shift

Cite this

Low biodiversity state persists two decades after cessation of nutrient enrichment. / Isbell, Forest; Tilman, David; Polasky, Stephen; Binder, Seth; Hawthorne, Peter.

In: Ecology Letters, Vol. 16, No. 4, 04.2013, p. 454-460.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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