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Eutrophication weakens stabilizing effects of diversity in natural grasslands

Yann Hautier, Eric W. Seabloom, Elizabeth T. Borer, Peter B. Adler, W. Stanley Harpole, Helmut Hillebrand, Eric M. Lind, Andrew S. MacDougall, Carly J. Stevens, Jonathan D. Bakker, Yvonne M. Buckley, Chengjin Chu, Scott L. Collins, Pedro Daleo, Ellen I. Damschen, Kendi F. Davies, Philip A. Fay, Jennifer Firn, Daniel S. Gruner, Virginia L. Jin, Julia A. Klein, Johannes M. H. Knops, Kimberly J. La Pierre, Wei Li, Rebecca L. McCulley, Brett A. Melbourne, Joslin L. Moore, Lydia R. O’Halloran, Suzanne M. Prober, Anita C. Risch, Mahesh Sankaran, Martin Schuetz, Andy Hector
Studies of experimental grassland communities have demonstrated that plant diversity can stabilize productivity through species asynchrony, in which decreases in the biomass of some species are compensated for by increases in others. However, it remains unknown whether these findings are relevant to natural ecosystems, especially those for which species diversity is threatened by anthropogenic global change. Here we analyse diversity–stability relationships from grasslands on five continents and examine how these relationships are affected by chronic fertilization, one of the strongest drivers of species loss globally. Unmanipulated communities with more species had greater species asynchrony, resulting in more stable biomass production, generalizing a result from biodiversity experiments to real-world grasslands. However, fertilization weakened the positive effect of diversity on stability. Contrary to expectations, this was not due to species loss after eutrophication but rather to an increase in the temporal variation of productivity in combination with a decrease in species asynchrony in diverse communities. Our results demonstrate separate and synergistic effects of diversity and eutrophication on stability, emphasizing the need to understand how drivers of global change interactively affect the reliable provisioning of ecosystem services in real-world systems.