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  1. Abstract Background

    Disturbances alter the diversity and composition of microbial communities. Yet a generalized empirical assessment of microbiome responses to disturbance across different environments is needed to understand the factors driving microbiome recovery, and the role of the environment in driving these patterns.

    Results

    To this end, we combined null models with Bayesian generalized linear models to examine 86 time series of disturbed mammalian, aquatic, and soil microbiomes up to 50 days following disturbance. Overall, disturbances had the strongest effect on mammalian microbiomes, which lost taxa and later recovered their richness, but not their composition. In contrast, following disturbance, aquatic microbiomes tended away from their pre-disturbance composition over time. Surprisingly, across all environments, we found no evidence of increased compositional dispersion (i.e., variance) following disturbance, in contrast to the expectations of the Anna Karenina Principle.

    Conclusions

    This is the first study to systematically compare secondary successional dynamics across disturbed microbiomes, using a consistent temporal scale and modeling approach. Our findings show that the recovery of microbiomes is environment-specific, and helps to reconcile existing, environment-specific research into a unified perspective.

     
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2025
  2. Abstract

    Plant diversity effects on community productivity often increase over time. Whether the strengthening of diversity effects is caused by temporal shifts in species-level overyielding (i.e., higher species-level productivity in diverse communities compared with monocultures) remains unclear. Here, using data from 65 grassland and forest biodiversity experiments, we show that the temporal strength of diversity effects at the community scale is underpinned by temporal changes in the species that yield. These temporal trends of species-level overyielding are shaped by plant ecological strategies, which can be quantitatively delimited by functional traits. In grasslands, the temporal strengthening of biodiversity effects on community productivity was associated with increasing biomass overyielding of resource-conservative species increasing over time, and with overyielding of species characterized by fast resource acquisition either decreasing or increasing. In forests, temporal trends in species overyielding differ when considering above- versus belowground resource acquisition strategies. Overyielding in stem growth decreased for species with high light capture capacity but increased for those with high soil resource acquisition capacity. Our results imply that a diversity of species with different, and potentially complementary, ecological strategies is beneficial for maintaining community productivity over time in both grassland and forest ecosystems.

     
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2025
  3. Abstract Decades of theory and empirical studies have demonstrated links between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, yet the putative processes that underlie these patterns remain elusive. This is especially true for forest ecosystems, where the functional traits of plant species are challenging to quantify. We analyzed 74,563 forest inventory plots that span 35 ecoregions in the contiguous USA and found that in ~77% of the ecoregions mixed mycorrhizal plots were more productive than plots where either arbuscular or ectomycorrhizal fungal-associated tree species were dominant. Moreover, the positive effects of mixing mycorrhizal strategies on forest productivity were more pronounced at low than high tree species richness. We conclude that at low richness different mycorrhizal strategies may allow tree species to partition nutrient uptake and thus can increase community productivity, whereas at high richness other dimensions of functional diversity can enhance resource partitioning and community productivity. Our findings highlight the importance of mixed mycorrhizal strategies, in addition to that of taxonomic diversity in general, for maintaining ecosystem functioning in forests. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2024
  4. Although decades of research suggest that higher species richness improves ecosystem functioning and stability, planted forests are predominantly monocultures. To determine whether diversification of plantations would enhance aboveground carbon storage, we systematically reviewed over 11,360 publications, and acquired data from a global network of tree diversity experiments. We compiled a maximum dataset of 79 monoculture to mixed comparisons from 21 sites with all variables needed for a meta-analysis. We assessed aboveground carbon stocks in mixed-species planted forests vs. (a) the average of monocultures, (b) the best monoculture, and (c) commercial species monocultures, and examined potential mechanisms driving differences in carbon stocks between mixtures and monocultures. On average, we found that aboveground carbon stocks in mixed planted forests were 70% higher than the average monoculture, 77% higher than commercial monocultures, and 25% higher than the best performing monocultures, although the latter was not statistically significant. Overyielding was highest in four-species mixtures (richness range 2–6 species), but otherwise none of the potential mechanisms we examined (nitrogen-fixer present vs. absent; native vs. non-native/mixed origin; tree diversity experiment vs. forestry plantation) consistently explained variation in the diversity effects. Our results, predominantly from young stands, thus suggest that diversification could be a very promising solution for increasing the carbon sequestration of planted forests and represent a call to action for more data to increase confidence in these results and elucidate methods to overcome any operational challenges and costs associated with diversification.

     
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available November 9, 2024
  5. Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 1, 2025
  6. Abstract

    Eutrophication usually impacts grassland biodiversity, community composition, and biomass production, but its impact on the stability of these community aspects is unclear. One challenge is that stability has many facets that can be tightly correlated (low dimensionality) or highly disparate (high dimensionality). Using standardized experiments in 55 grassland sites from a globally distributed experiment (NutNet), we quantify the effects of nutrient addition on five facets of stability (temporal invariability, resistance during dry and wet growing seasons, recovery after dry and wet growing seasons), measured on three community aspects (aboveground biomass, community composition, and species richness). Nutrient addition reduces the temporal invariability and resistance of species richness and community composition during dry and wet growing seasons, but does not affect those of biomass. Different stability measures are largely uncorrelated under both ambient and eutrophic conditions, indicating consistently high dimensionality. Harnessing the dimensionality of ecological stability provides insights for predicting grassland responses to global environmental change.

     
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2024
  7. Abstract Plant productivity varies due to environmental heterogeneity, and theory suggests that plant diversity can reduce this variation. While there is strong evidence of diversity effects on temporal variability of productivity, whether this mechanism extends to variability across space remains elusive. Here we determine the relationship between plant diversity and spatial variability of productivity in 83 grasslands, and quantify the effect of experimentally increased spatial heterogeneity in environmental conditions on this relationship. We found that communities with higher plant species richness (alpha and gamma diversity) have lower spatial variability of productivity as reduced abundance of some species can be compensated for by increased abundance of other species. In contrast, high species dissimilarity among local communities (beta diversity) is positively associated with spatial variability of productivity, suggesting that changes in species composition can scale up to affect productivity. Experimentally increased spatial environmental heterogeneity weakens the effect of plant alpha and gamma diversity, and reveals that beta diversity can simultaneously decrease and increase spatial variability of productivity. Our findings unveil the generality of the diversity-stability theory across space, and suggest that reduced local diversity and biotic homogenization can affect the spatial reliability of key ecosystem functions. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2024
  8. Abstract

    Little is currently known about how climate modulates the relationship between plant diversity and soil organic carbon and the mechanisms involved. Yet, this knowledge is of crucial importance in times of climate change and biodiversity loss. Here, we show that plant diversity is positively correlated with soil carbon content and soil carbon-to-nitrogen ratio across 84 grasslands on six continents that span wide climate gradients. The relationships between plant diversity and soil carbon as well as plant diversity and soil organic matter quality (carbon-to-nitrogen ratio) are particularly strong in warm and arid climates. While plant biomass is positively correlated with soil carbon, plant biomass is not significantly correlated with plant diversity. Our results indicate that plant diversity influences soil carbon storage not via the quantity of organic matter (plant biomass) inputs to soil, but through the quality of organic matter. The study implies that ecosystem management that restores plant diversity likely enhances soil carbon sequestration, particularly in warm and arid climates.

     
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  9. Mori, Akira (Ed.)