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  1. A large body of research shows that biodiversity loss can reduce ecosystem functioning. However, much of the evidence for this relationship is drawn from biodiversity–ecosystem functioning experiments in which biodiversity loss is simulated by randomly assembling communities of varying species diversity, and ecosystem functions are measured. This random assembly has led some ecologists to question the relevance of biodiversity experiments to real-world ecosystems, where community assembly or disassembly may be non-random and influenced by external drivers, such as climate, soil conditions or land use. Here, we compare data from real-world grassland plant communities with data from two of the largest and longest-running grassland biodiversity experiments (the Jena Experiment in Germany and BioDIV in the United States) in terms of their taxonomic, functional and phylogenetic diversity and functional-trait composition. We found that plant communities of biodiversity experiments cover almost all of the multivariate variation of the real-world communities, while also containing community types that are not currently observed in the real world. Moreover, they have greater variance in their compositional features than their real-world counterparts. We then re-analysed a subset of experimental data that included only ecologically realistic communities (that is, those comparable to real-world communities). For 10 out of 12 biodiversity–ecosystem functioning relationships, biodiversity effects did not differ significantly between the full dataset of biodiversity experiments and the ecologically realistic subset of experimental communities. Although we do not provide direct evidence for strong or consistent biodiversity–ecosystem functioning relationships in real-world communities, our results demonstrate that the results of biodiversity experiments are largely insensitive to the exclusion of unrealistic communities and that the conclusions drawn from biodiversity experiments are generally robust. 
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  2. Biodiversity-ecosystem functioning (BEF) research grew rapidly following concerns that biodiversity loss would negatively affect ecosystem functions and the ecosystem services they underpin. However, despite evidence that biodiversity strongly affects ecosystem functioning, the influence of BEF research upon policy and the management of ‘real-world’ ecosystems, i.e., semi-natural habitats and agroecosystems, has been limited. Here, we address this issue by classifying BEF research into three clusters based on the degree of human control over species composition and the spatial scale, in terms of grain, of the study, and discussing how the research of each cluster is best suited to inform particular fields of ecosystem management. Research in the first cluster, small-grain highly controlled studies, is best able to provide general insights into mechanisms and to inform the management of species-poor and highly managed systems such as croplands, plantations, and the restoration of heavily degraded ecosystems. Research from the second cluster, small-grain observational studies, and species removal and addition studies, may allow for direct predictions of the impacts of species loss in specific semi-natural ecosystems. Research in the third cluster, large-grain uncontrolled studies, may best inform landscape-scale management and national-scale policy. We discuss barriers to transfer within each cluster and suggest how new research and knowledge exchange mechanisms may overcome these challenges. To meet the potential for BEF research to address global challenges, we recommend transdisciplinary research that goes beyond these current clusters and considers the social-ecological context of the ecosystems in which BEF knowledge is generated. This requires recognizing the social and economic value of biodiversity for ecosystem services at scales, and in units, that matter to land managers and policy makers. 
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  3. Abstract Here we provide the ‘Global Spectrum of Plant Form and Function Dataset’, containing species mean values for six vascular plant traits. Together, these traits –plant height, stem specific density, leaf area, leaf mass per area, leaf nitrogen content per dry mass, and diaspore (seed or spore) mass – define the primary axes of variation in plant form and function. The dataset is based on ca. 1 million trait records received via the TRY database (representing ca. 2,500 original publications) and additional unpublished data. It provides 92,159 species mean values for the six traits, covering 46,047 species. The data are complemented by higher-level taxonomic classification and six categorical traits (woodiness, growth form, succulence, adaptation to terrestrial or aquatic habitats, nutrition type and leaf type). Data quality management is based on a probabilistic approach combined with comprehensive validation against expert knowledge and external information. Intense data acquisition and thorough quality control produced the largest and, to our knowledge, most accurate compilation of empirically observed vascular plant species mean traits to date. 
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  4. Schrodt, Franziska (Ed.)
  5. Abstract Aim

    Plant species continue to be moved outside of their native range by human activities. Here, we aim to determine whether, once introduced, plants assimilate into native communities or whether they aggregate, thus forming mosaics of native‐ and alien‐rich communities. Alien species might aggregate in their non‐native range owing to shared habitat preferences, such as their tendency to establish in high‐biomass, species‐poor areas.

    Location

    Twenty‐two herbaceous grasslands in 14 countries, mainly in the temperate zone.

    Time period

    2012–2016.

    Major taxa studied

    Plants.

    Methods

    We used a globally coordinated survey. Within this survey, we found 46 plant species, predominantly from Eurasia, for which we had co‐occurrence data in their native and non‐native ranges. We tested for differences in co‐occurrence patterns of 46 species between their native (home) and non‐native (away) range. We also tested whether species had similar habitat preferences, by testing for differences in total biomass and species richness of the patches that species occupy in their native and non‐native ranges.

    Results

    We found the same species to show different patterns of association depending on whether they were in their native or non‐native range. Alien species were negatively associated with native species; instead, they aggregated with other alien species in species‐poor, high‐biomass communities in their non‐native range compared with their native range.

    Main conclusions

    The strong differences between the native (home) and non‐native (away) range in species co‐occurrence patterns are evidence that the way in which species associate with resident communities in their non‐native range is not species dependent, but is instead a property of being away from their native range. These results thus highlight that species might undergo important ecological changes when introduced away from their native range. Overall, we show origin‐dependent associations that result in novel communities, in which alien‐rich patches exist within a mosaic of native‐dominated communities.

     
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