Biodiversity—both above- and belowground—influences multiple functions in terrestrial ecosystems. Yet, it is unclear whether differences in above- and belowground species composition (β-diversity) are associated with differences in multiple ecosystem functions (e.g., spatial turnover in ecosystem function). Here, we partitioned the contributions of above- and belowground β-diversity and abiotic factors (geographic distance, differences in environments) on the spatial turnover of multiple grassland ecosystem functions. We compiled a dataset of plant and soil microbial communities and six indicators of grassland ecosystem functions (i.e., plant aboveground live biomass, plant nitrogen [N], plant phosphorus [P], root biomass, soil total N, and soil extractable P) from 18 grassland sites on four continents contributing to the Nutrient Network experiment. We used Mantel tests and structural equation models to disentangle the relationship between above- and belowground β-diversity and spatial turnover in grassland ecosystem functions. We found that the effects of abiotic factors on the spatial turnover of ecosystem functions were largely indirect through their influences on above- and belowground β-diversity, and that spatial turnover of ecosystem function was more strongly associated with plant β-diversity than with soil microbial β-diversity. These results indicate that changes in above- and belowground species composition are one mechanism that interacts with environmental change to determine variability in multiple ecosystem functions across spatial scales. As grasslands face global threats from shrub encroachment, conversion to agriculture, or are lost to development, the functions and services they provide will more strongly converge with increased aboveground community homogenization than with soil microbial community homogenization.

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Published in Ecosphere, v. 12, issue 7, article e03644.

© 2021 The Authors

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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NJS was supported by a Semper Ardens grant from Carlsberg Foundation. This work was generated using data from the Nutrient Network (http://www.nutnet.org) experiment, funded at the site-scale by individual researchers. Coordination and data management have been supported by funding to E. Borer and E. Seabloom from the National Science Foundation Research Coordination Network (NSF-DEB-1042132) and Long Term Ecological Research (NSF-DEB-1234162 and NSF-DEB-1831944 to Cedar Creek LTER) programs, and the Institute on the Environment (DG-0001-13).

Related Content

Data and R code are available at Zenodo: https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.4569924.

ecs23644-sup-0001-appendixs1.pdf (450 kB)
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