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Nitrogen addition does not reduce the role of spatial asynchrony in stabilising grassland communities

Zhang, Yunhai, Feng, Jinchao, Loreau, Michel, He, Nianpeng, Han, Xingguo, Jiang, Lin
Ecology letters 2019 v.22 no.4 pp. 563-571
biomass, ecosystems, field experimentation, grasslands, nitrogen, population dynamics, species richness
While nitrogen (N) amendment is known to affect the stability of ecological communities, whether this effect is scale‐dependent remains an open question. By conducting a field experiment in a temperate grassland, we found that both plant richness and temporal stability of community biomass increased with spatial scale, but N enrichment reduced richness and stability at the two scales considered. Reduced local‐scale stability under N enrichment arose from N‐induced reduction in population stability, which was partly attributable to the decline in local species richness, as well as reduction in asynchronous local population dynamics across species. Importantly, N enrichment did not alter spatial asynchrony among local communities, which provided similar spatial insurance effects at the larger scale, regardless of N enrichment levels. These results suggest that spatial variability among local communities, in addition to local diversity, may help stabilise ecosystems at larger spatial scales even in the face of anthropogenic environmental changes.