The economic value of grassland species for carbon storage

Bruce A. Hungate, Edward B. Barbier, Amy W. Ando, Samuel P. Marks, Peter B. Reich, Natasja van Gestel, David Tilman, Johannes M.H. Knops, David U. Hooper, Bradley J. Butterfield, Bradley J. Cardinale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Carbon storage by ecosystems is valuable for climate protection. Biodiversity conservation may help increase carbon storage, but the value of this influence has been difficult to assess. We use plant, soil, and ecosystem carbon storage data from two grassland biodiversity experiments to show that greater species richness increases economic value: Increasing species richness from 1 to 10 had twice the economic value of increasing species richness from 1 to 2. The marginal value of each additional species declined as species accumulated, reflecting the nonlinear relationship between species richness and plant biomass production. Our demonstration of the economic value of biodiversity for enhancing carbon storage provides a foundation for assessing the value of biodiversity for decisions about land management. Combining carbon storage with other ecosystem services affected by biodiversity may well enhance the economic arguments for conservation even further.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1601880
JournalScience Advances
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments: The work here was developed out of a working group supported by the Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) Venture series, “Linking biodiversity and ecosystem services: From expert opinion to prediction and application,” led by B. Cardinale and E. B. Barbier. We thank L. Gamfeldt and A. Paquette for constructive discussions and comments, Y. Luo for technical support with the data assimilation part of the work, and G. Koch and T. Schuur for comments on the manuscript. Funding: This research was conducted as part of a working group supported by the Social Environmental Synthesis Center, with additional funding support from the NSF LTER (DEB-9411972, DEB-0080382, DEB-0620652, and DEB-1234162), Biocomplexity Coupled Biogeochemical Cycles (DEB-0322057), Long-Term Research in Environmental Biology (DEB-0716587 and DEB-1242531), Dimensions of Biodiversity (DEB-1241094), and Ecosystem Sciences (DEB-1120064) programs; the University of Michigan Energy Institute; and the U.S. Department of Energy Programs for Ecosystem Research (DE-FG02-96ER62291), National Institute for Climatic Change Research (DE-FC02-06ER64158), and Biological and Environmental Research (DE-SC0008270). A.W.A. is a university fellow at Resources for the Future and was funded through the USDA-NIFA (National Institute of Food and Agriculture), Hatch Multistate #230830, 1 October 2012 to 1 October 2016.

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