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Phylogenetically diverse grasslands are associated with pairwise interspecific processes that increase biomass

Connolly, John, Cadotte, Marc W., Brophy, Caroline, Dooley, Áine, Finn, John, Kirwan, Laura, Roscher, Christiane, Weigelt, Alexandra
Ecology 2011 v.92 no.7 pp. 1385-1392
biomass, ecosystems, grasslands, phylogeny, primary productivity, species diversity, statistical models
Biodiversity is an important determinant of primary productivity in experimental ecosystems. We combine two streams of research on understanding the effects of biodiversity on ecosystem function: quantifying phylogenetic diversity as a predictor of biodiversity effects in species‐rich systems and the contribution of pairwise interspecific interactions to ecosystem function. We developed a statistical model that partitions the effect of biodiversity into effects due to community phylogenetic diversity and other community properties (e.g., average pairwise interaction, between‐ and within‐functional‐group effects, and so forth). The model provides phylogenetically based species‐level explanations of differences in ecosystem response for communities with differing species composition. In two well‐known grassland experiments, the model approach provides a parsimonious description of the effects of diversity as being due to the joint effect of the average pairwise statistical interaction and to community phylogenetic diversity. Effects associated with functional groupings of species in communities are largely explained by community phylogenetic diversity. The model approach quantifies a direct link between a measure of the evolutionary diversity of species and their interactive contribution to ecosystem function. It proves a useful tool in developing a mechanistic understanding of variation in ecosystem function.