Ecology

Driving Diversity Underground

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Science  16 Jul 2010:
Vol. 329, Issue 5989, pp. 258
DOI: 10.1126/science.329.5989.258-d
CREDIT: CLAUDIA STEIN

An experimental study of hay meadows in central Germany shows that the species richness of the plant community affects the impact that invertebrate herbivores exert on the vegetation. Using insecticide and molluscicide to exclude herbivores in plots of widely differing plant species diversity and productivity in a 5-year program, Stein et al. were able to confirm theoretical predictions about the relationship between diversity and herbivore effects. The exclusion of herbivores led to alterations in the composition of the plant community and also to reduced diversity; belowground herbivores had a greater impact on the community composition than their aboveground counterparts. Biomass and productivity, on the other hand, showed no clear patterns of change, suggesting that the effects of herbivore removal and diversity were not artefacts caused by increased soil fertility. These findings add to the growing body of evidence showing intricate relationships between biodiversity and ecosystem function.

Ecology 91, 1639 (2010).

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