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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 1, 2025
  2. Abstract Causal effects of biodiversity on ecosystem functions can be estimated using experimental or observational designs — designs that pose a tradeoff between drawing credible causal inferences from correlations and drawing generalizable inferences. Here, we develop a design that reduces this tradeoff and revisits the question of how plant species diversity affects productivity. Our design leverages longitudinal data from 43 grasslands in 11 countries and approaches borrowed from fields outside of ecology to draw causal inferences from observational data. Contrary to many prior studies, we estimate that increases in plot-level species richness caused productivity to decline: a 10% increase in richness decreased productivity by 2.4%, 95% CI [−4.1, −0.74]. This contradiction stems from two sources. First, prior observational studies incompletely control for confounding factors. Second, most experiments plant fewer rare and non-native species than exist in nature. Although increases in native, dominant species increased productivity, increases in rare and non-native species decreased productivity, making the average effect negative in our study. By reducing the tradeoff between experimental and observational designs, our study demonstrates how observational studies can complement prior ecological experiments and inform future ones. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2024
  3. Abstract

    Enhancing tree diversity may be important to fostering resilience to drought‐related climate extremes. So far, little attention has been given to whether tree diversity can increase the survival of trees and reduce its variability in young forest plantations.

    We conducted an analysis of seedling and sapling survival from 34 globally distributed tree diversity experiments (363,167 trees, 168 species, 3744 plots, 7 biomes) to answer two questions: (1) Do drought and tree diversity alter the mean and variability in plot‐level tree survival, with higher and less variable survival as diversity increases? and (2) Do species that survive poorly in monocultures survive better in mixtures and do specific functional traits explain monoculture survival?

    Tree species richness reduced variability in plot‐level survival, while functional diversity (Rao's Q entropy) increased survival and also reduced its variability. Importantly, the reduction in survival variability became stronger as drought severity increased. We found that species with low survival in monocultures survived comparatively better in mixtures when under drought. Species survival in monoculture was positively associated with drought resistance (indicated by hydraulic traits such as turgor loss point), plant height and conservative resource‐acquisition traits (e.g. low leaf nitrogen concentration and small leaf size).

    Synthesis.The findings highlight: (1) The effectiveness of tree diversity for decreasing the variability in seedling and sapling survival under drought; and (2) the importance of drought resistance and associated traits to explain altered tree species survival in response to tree diversity and drought. From an ecological perspective, we recommend mixing be considered to stabilize tree survival, particularly when functionally diverse forests with drought‐resistant species also promote high survival of drought‐sensitive species.

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  4. null (Ed.)
    Abstract Arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) and ectomycorrhizal (EcM) associations are critical for host-tree performance. However, how mycorrhizal associations correlate with the latitudinal tree beta-diversity remains untested. Using a global dataset of 45 forest plots representing 2,804,270 trees across 3840 species, we test how AM and EcM trees contribute to total beta-diversity and its components (turnover and nestedness) of all trees. We find AM rather than EcM trees predominantly contribute to decreasing total beta-diversity and turnover and increasing nestedness with increasing latitude, probably because wide distributions of EcM trees do not generate strong compositional differences among localities. Environmental variables, especially temperature and precipitation, are strongly correlated with beta-diversity patterns for both AM trees and all trees rather than EcM trees. Results support our hypotheses that latitudinal beta-diversity patterns and environmental effects on these patterns are highly dependent on mycorrhizal types. Our findings highlight the importance of AM-dominated forests for conserving global forest biodiversity. 
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  5. Feedbacks are an essential feature of resilient socio-economic systems, yet the feedbacks between biodiversity, ecosystem services and human wellbeing are not fully accounted for in global policy efforts that consider future scenarios for human activities and their consequences for nature. Failure to integrate feedbacks in our knowledge frameworks exacerbates uncertainty in future projections and potentially prevents us from realizing the full benefits of actions we can take to enhance sustainability. We identify six scientific research challenges that, if addressed, could allow future policy, conservation and monitoring efforts to quantitatively account for ecosystem and societal consequences of biodiversity change. Placing feedbacks prominently in our frameworks would lead to (i) coordinated observation of biodiversity change, ecosystem functions and human actions, (ii) joint experiment and observation programmes, (iii) more effective use of emerging technologies in biodiversity science and policy, and (iv) a more inclusive and integrated global community of biodiversity observers. To meet these challenges, we outline a five-point action plan for collaboration and connection among scientists and policymakers that emphasizes diversity, inclusion and open access. Efforts to protect biodiversity require the best possible scientific understanding of human activities, biodiversity trends, ecosystem functions and—critically—the feedbacks among them. 
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  6. McGeoch, Melodie (Ed.)