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Ecology

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2-2011

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Volume 92, Issue 2 (February)

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< Previous Article Next Article> Volume 92, Issue 2 (February 2011)

Stefan A. Schnitzer, John N. Klironomos, Janneke HilleRisLambers, Linda L. Kinkel, Peter B. Reich, Kun Xiao, Matthias C. Rillig, Benjamin A. Sikes, Ragan M. Callaway, Scott A. Mangan, Egbert H. van Nes, and Marten Scheffer 2011. Soil microbes drive the classic plant diversity–productivity pattern. Ecology 92:296–303. http://dx.doi.org/10.1890/10-0773.1Reports

Soil microbes drive the classic plant diversity–productivity pattern

Stefan A. Schnitzer,1,2,11 John N. Klironomos,3 Janneke HilleRisLambers,4 Linda L. Kinkel,5 Peter B. Reich,6 Kun Xiao,5 Matthias C. Rillig,7 Benjamin A. Sikes,8 Ragan M. Callaway,9 Scott A. Mangan,1,2 Egbert H. van Nes,10 and Marten Scheffer10

1Department of Biological Sciences, University of Wisconsin, P.O. Box 413, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53201 USA

2Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Apartado 0843-03092, Balboa, Panama

3Biology and Physical Geography Unit, University of British Columbia–Okanagan, Kelowna, British Columbia V1V 1V7 Canada

4Biology Department, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195 USA

5Department of Plant Pathology, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota 55108 USA

6Department of Forest Resources, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota 55108 USA

7Institut für Biologie, Freie Universitaet Berlin, Altensteinstr. 6, D-14195 Berlin, Germany

8Section of Integrative Biology, University of Texas, Austin, Texas 78705 USA

9Division of Biological Sciences, The University of Montana, Missoula, Montana 59812 USA

10Aquatic Ecology and Water Quality Management, Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands

Ecosystem productivity commonly increases asymptotically with plant species diversity, and determining the mechanisms responsible for this well-known pattern is essential to predict potential changes in ecosystem productivity with ongoing species loss. Previous studies attributed the asymptotic diversity–productivity pattern to plant competition and differential resource use (e.g., niche complementarity). Using an analytical model and a series of experiments, we demonstrate theoretically and empirically that host-specific soil microbes can be major determinants of the diversity–productivity relationship in grasslands. In the presence of soil microbes, plant disease decreased with increasing diversity, and productivity increased nearly 500%, primarily because of the strong effect of density-dependent disease on productivity at low diversity. Correspondingly, disease was higher in plants grown in conspecific-trained soils than heterospecific-trained soils (demonstrating host-specificity), and productivity increased and host-specific disease decreased with increasing community diversity, suggesting that disease was the primary cause of reduced productivity in species-poor treatments. In sterilized, microbe-free soils, the increase in productivity with increasing plant species number was markedly lower than the increase measured in the presence of soil microbes, suggesting that niche complementarity was a weaker determinant of the diversity–productivity relationship. Our results demonstrate that soil microbes play an integral role as determinants of the diversity–productivity relationship.

DOI

10.1890/10-0773.1

Comments

Copyright 2011 by the Ecological Society of America. Stefan A. Schnitzer, John N. Klironomos, Janneke HilleRisLambers, Linda L. Kinkel, Peter B. Reich, Kun Xiao, Matthias C. Rillig, Benjamin A. Sikes, Ragan M. Callaway, Scott A. Mangan, Egbert H. van Nes, and Marten Scheffer 2011. Soil microbes drive the classic plant diversity–productivity pattern. Ecology 92:296–303. http://dx.doi.org/10.1890/10-0773.1.

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Copyright 2011 by the Ecological Society of America. Stefan A. Schnitzer, John N. Klironomos, Janneke HilleRisLambers, Linda L. Kinkel, Peter B. Reich, Kun Xiao, Matthias C. Rillig, Benjamin A. Sikes, Ragan M. Callaway, Scott A. Mangan, Egbert H. van Nes, and Marten Scheffer 2011. Soil microbes drive the classic plant diversity–productivity pattern. Ecology 92:296–303. http://dx.doi.org/10.1890/10-0773.1.

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