Reducing dispersal limitation via seed addition increases species richness but not above-ground biomass

Emma Ladouceur, W. Stanley Harpole, Shane A. Blowes, Christiane Roscher, Harald Auge, Eric W. Seabloom, Jonathan M. Chase

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Seed dispersal limitation, which can be exacerbated by a number of anthropogenic causes, can result in local communities having fewer species than they might potentially support, representing a potential diversity deficit. The link between processes that shape natural variation in diversity, such as dispersal limitation, and the consequent effects on productivity is less well known. Here, we synthesised data from 12 seed addition experiments in grassland communities to examine the influence of reducing seed dispersal limitation (from 1 to 60 species added across experiments) on species richness and productivity. For every 10 species of seed added, we found that species richness increased by about two species. However, the increase in species richness by overcoming seed limitation did not lead to a concomitant increase in above-ground biomass production. This highlights the need to consider the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in a pluralistic way that considers both the processes that shape diversity and productivity simultaneously in naturally assembled communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1442-1450
Number of pages9
JournalEcology letters
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank the support of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig, funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG FZT 118). In addition, we thank the authors of the experiments that make up this synthesis (Table?1), who conducted experiments, collected data and generously made it available for our use. We thank Christian Krause and the UFZ administrative and support staff of the High-Performance Computing Cluster EVE, a joint effort of the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) and iDiv, for access to, and support associated with, EVE. We thank the reviewers for helpful suggestions that led to an improved version of the manuscript.


  • Biodiversity
  • community assembly
  • ecosystem function
  • grasslands
  • metacommunity ecology
  • seed addition
  • species pool

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Letter

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