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  1. Prieto Aguilar, Iván (Ed.)
    The use of trait-based approaches to understand ecological communities has increased in the past two decades because of their promise to preserve more information about community structure than taxonomic methods and their potential to connect community responses to subsequent effects of ecosystem functioning. Though trait-based approaches are a powerful tool for describing ecological communities, many important properties of commonly-used trait metrics remain unexamined. Previous work in studies that simulate communities and trait distributions show consistent sensitivity of functional richness and evenness measures to the number of traits used to calculate them, but these relationships have yet to be studied in actual plant communities with a realistic distribution of trait values, ecologically meaningful covariation of traits, and a realistic number of traits available for analysis. Therefore, we propose to test how the number of traits used and the correlation between traits used in the calculation of functional diversity indices impacts the magnitude of eight functional diversity metrics in real plant communities. We will use trait data from three grassland plant communities in the US to assess the generality of our findings across ecosystems and experiments. We will determine how eight functional diversity metrics (functional richness, functional evenness, functional divergence, functional dispersion,more »kernel density estimation (KDE) richness, KDE evenness, KDE dispersion, Rao’s Q) differ based on the number of traits used in the metric calculation and on the correlation of traits when holding the number of traits constant. Without a firm understanding of how a scientist’s choices impact these metric, it will be difficult to compare results among studies with different metric parametrization and thus, limit robust conclusions about functional composition of communities across systems.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 25, 2023
  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 1, 2023
  3. Increased nutrient inputs due to anthropogenic activity are expected to increase primary productivity across terrestrial ecosystems, but changes in allocation aboveground versus belowground with nutrient addition have different implications for soil carbon (C) storage. Thus, given that roots are major contributors to soil C storage, understanding belowground net primary productivity (BNPP) and biomass responses to changes in nutrient availability is essential to predicting carbon–climate feedbacks in the context of interacting global environmental changes. To address this knowledge gap, we tested whether a decade of nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) fertilization consistently influenced aboveground and belowground biomass and productivity at nine grassland sites spanning a wide range of climatic and edaphic conditions in the continental United States. Fertilization effects were strong aboveground, with both N and P addition stimulating aboveground biomass at nearly all sites (by 30% and 36%, respectively, on average). P addition consistently increased root production (by 15% on average), whereas other belowground responses to fertilization were more variable, ranging from positive to negative across sites. Site-specific responses to P were not predicted by the measured covariates. Atmospheric N deposition mediated the effect of N fertilization on root biomass and turnover. Specifically, atmospheric N deposition was positively correlated withmore »root turnover rates, and this relationship was amplified with N addition. Nitrogen addition increased root biomass at sites with low N deposition but decreased it at sites with high N deposition. Overall, these results suggest that the effects of nutrient supply on belowground plant properties are context dependent, particularly with regard to background N supply rates, demonstrating that site conditions must be considered when predicting how grassland ecosystems will respond to increased nutrient loading from anthropogenic activity.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available October 8, 2023
  4. Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2023
  5. Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 1, 2023
  6. null (Ed.)
  7. Whether the terrestrial biosphere will continue to act as a net carbon (C) sink in the face of multiple global changes is questionable. A key uncertainty is whether increases in plant C fixation under elevated carbon dioxide (CO2) will translate into decades-long C storage and whether this depends on other concurrently changing factors. We investigated how manipulations of CO2, soil nitrogen (N) supply, and plant species richness influenced total ecosystem (plant + soil to 60 cm) C storage over 19 y in a free-air CO2enrichment grassland experiment (BioCON) in Minnesota. On average, after 19 y of treatments, increasing species richness from 1 to 4, 9, or 16 enhanced total ecosystem C storage by 22 to 32%, whereas N addition of 4 g N m−2⋅ y−1and elevated CO2of +180 ppm had only modest effects (increasing C stores by less than 5%). While all treatments increased net primary productivity, only increasing species richness enhanced net primary productivity sufficiently to more than offset enhanced C losses and substantially increase ecosystem C pools. Effects of the three global change treatments were generally additive, and we did not observe any interactions between CO2and N. Overall, our results call into question whether elevated CO2will increase themore »soil C sink in grassland ecosystems, helping to slow climate change, and suggest that losses of biodiversity may influence C storage as much as or more than increasing CO2or high rates of N deposition in perennial grassland systems.

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