Predicting ecosystem stability from community composition and biodiversity

Claire de Mazancourt, Forest Isbell, Allen Larocque, Frank Berendse, Enrica De Luca, James B. Grace, Bart Haegeman, H. Wayne Polley, Christiane Roscher, Bernhard Schmid, David Tilman, Jasper van Ruijven, Alexandra Weigelt, Brian J. Wilsey, Michel Loreau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

221 Scopus citations


As biodiversity is declining at an unprecedented rate, an important current scientific challenge is to understand and predict the consequences of biodiversity loss. Here, we develop a theory that predicts the temporal variability of community biomass from the properties of individual component species in monoculture. Our theory shows that biodiversity stabilises ecosystems through three main mechanisms: (1) asynchrony in species' responses to environmental fluctuations, (2) reduced demographic stochasticity due to overyielding in species mixtures and (3) reduced observation error (including spatial and sampling variability). Parameterised with empirical data from four long-term grassland biodiversity experiments, our prediction explained 22-75% of the observed variability, and captured much of the effect of species richness. Richness stabilised communities mainly by increasing community biomass and reducing the strength of demographic stochasticity. Our approach calls for a re-evaluation of the mechanisms explaining the effects of biodiversity on ecosystem stability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)617-625
Number of pages9
JournalEcology Letters
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2013

Bibliographical note

Times Cited: 0


  • Biodiversity
  • Demographic stochasticity
  • Environmental stochasticity
  • Overyielding
  • Prediction
  • Stability


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