Yann Hautier, Utrecht University, The Netherlands
Forest Isbell, University of Minnesota - Twin Cities
Elizabeth T. Borer, University of Minnesota - Twin Cities
Eric W. Seabloom, University of Minnesota - Twin Cities
W. Stanley Harpole, Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research, Germany
Eric M. Lind, University of Minnesota - Twin Cities
Andrew S. MacDougall, University of Guelph, Canada
Carly J. Stevens, Lancaster University
Peter B. Adler, Utah State University
Juan Alberti, Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata, Argentina
Jonathan D. Bakker, University of Washington
Lars A. Brudvig, Michigan State University
Yvonne M. Buckley, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland
Marc Cadotte, University of Toronto Scarborough, Canada
Maria C. Caldeira, University of Lisbon, Portugal
Enrique J. Chaneton, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina
Chengjin Chu, Sun Yat-sen University, China
Pedro Daleo, Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata, Argentina
Christopher R. Dickman, University of Sydney, Australia
John M. Dwyer, The University of Queensland, Australia
Anu Eskelinen, Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research, Germany
Philip A Fay, USDA Agricultural Research Service
Jennifer Firn, Queensland University of Technology, Australia
Nicole Hagenah, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Helmut Hillebrand, University Oldenburg, Germany
Oscar Iribarne, Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata, Argentina
Kevin P. Kirkman, , University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Johannes M. H. Knops, University of Nebraska - Lincoln
Kimberly J. La Pierre, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center
Rebecca L. McCulley, University of KentuckyFollow


Biodiversity is declining in many local communities while also becoming increasingly homogenized across space. Experiments show that local plant species loss reduces ecosystem functioning and services, but the role of spatial homogenization of community composition and the potential interaction between diversity at different scales in maintaining ecosystem functioning remains unclear, especially when many functions are considered (ecosystem multifunctionality). We present an analysis of eight ecosystem functions measured in 65 grasslands worldwide. We find that more diverse grasslands—those with both species-rich local communities (α-diversity) and large compositional differences among localities (β-diversity)—had higher levels of multifunctionality. Moreover, α- and β-diversity synergistically affected multifunctionality, with higher levels of diversity at one scale amplifying the contribution to ecological functions at the other scale. The identity of species influencing ecosystem functioning differed among functions and across local communities, explaining why more diverse grasslands maintained greater functionality when more functions and localities were considered. These results were robust to variation in environmental drivers. Our findings reveal that plant diversity, at both local and landscape scales, contributes to the maintenance of multiple ecosystem services provided by grasslands. Preserving ecosystem functioning therefore requires conservation of biodiversity both within and among ecological communities.

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Notes/Citation Information

Published in Nature Ecology & Evolution, v. 2, issue 1, p. 50--56.

© 2017 Macmillan Publishers Limited, part of Springer Nature. All rights reserved.

The copyright holder has granted the permission for posting the article here.

This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published in Nature Ecology & Evolution. The final authenticated version is available online at:

Due to the large number of authors, only the first 30 and the authors affiliated with the University of Kentucky are listed in the author section above. For the complete list of authors, please download this article or visit:

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Funding Information

The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement no. 298935 to Y.H. (with A.H. and E.W.S.). This work was generated using data from the Nutrient Network ( experiment, funded at the site-scale by individual researchers. Coordination and data management have been supported by funding from the National Science Foundation Research Coordination Network (NSF-DEB-1042132) to E.T.B. and E.W.S, and from the Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) programme (NSF-DEB-1234162), and the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota (DG-0001-13).

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The datasets generated during and/or analysed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

Supplementary information is available for this paper.

41559_2017_395_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (2373 kB)
Supplementary Information

41559_2017_395_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (67 kB)
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