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      Climate warming reduces the temporal stability of plant community biomass production

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          Abstract

          Anthropogenic climate change has emerged as a critical environmental problem, prompting frequent investigations into its consequences for various ecological systems. Few studies, however, have explored the effect of climate change on ecological stability and the underlying mechanisms. We conduct a field experiment to assess the influence of warming and altered precipitation on the temporal stability of plant community biomass in an alpine grassland located on the Tibetan Plateau. We find that whereas precipitation alteration does not influence biomass temporal stability, warming lowers stability through reducing the degree of species asynchrony. Importantly, biomass temporal stability is not influenced by plant species diversity, but is largely determined by the temporal stability of dominant species and asynchronous population dynamics among the coexisting species. Our findings suggest that ongoing and future climate change may alter stability properties of ecological communities, potentially hindering their ability to provide ecosystem services for humanity.

          Abstract

          Temporal stability of plant communities is driven by several mechanisms and may be influenced by climate change. Here it is shown that warming, but not precipitation, reduces species asynchrony in an alpine grassland, leading to lower biomass temporal stability.

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          Most cited references62

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          Benefits of plant diversity to ecosystems: immediate, filter and founder effects

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            Biodiversity and stability in grasslands

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              Ecosystem stability and compensatory effects in the Inner Mongolia grassland.

              Numerous studies have suggested that biodiversity reduces variability in ecosystem productivity through compensatory effects; that is, a species increases in its abundance in response to the reduction of another in a fluctuating environment. But this view has been challenged on several grounds. Because most studies have been based on artificially constructed grasslands with short duration, long-term studies of natural ecosystems are needed. On the basis of a 24-year study of the Inner Mongolia grassland, here we present three key findings. First, that January-July precipitation is the primary climatic factor causing fluctuations in community biomass production; second, that ecosystem stability (conversely related to variability in community biomass production) increases progressively along the hierarchy of organizational levels (that is, from species to functional group to whole community); and finally, that the community-level stability seems to arise from compensatory interactions among major components at both species and functional group levels. From a hierarchical perspective, our results corroborate some previous findings of compensatory effects. Undisturbed mature steppe ecosystems seem to culminate with high biodiversity, productivity and ecosystem stability concurrently. Because these relationships are correlational, further studies are necessary to verify the causation among these factors. Our study provides new insights for better management and restoration of the rapidly degrading Inner Mongolia grassland.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Nat Commun
                Nat Commun
                Nature Communications
                Nature Publishing Group
                2041-1723
                10 May 2017
                2017
                : 8
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Department of Ecology, College of Urban and Environmental Sciences, and Key Laboratory for Earth Surface Processes of the Ministry of Education, Peking University , Beijing 100871, China
                [2 ]Key Laboratory of Adaptation and Evolution of Plateau Biota, Northwest Institute of Plateau Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences , Xining 810008, China
                [3 ]School of Biological Sciences, Georgia Institute of Technology , Atlanta, Georgia 30332, USA
                Author notes
                [*]

                These authors contributed equally to this work.

                [†]

                Present addresses: Farmland Irrigation Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Xinxiang 453002, China

                [‡]

                Present addresses: Department of Ecology, College of Life Sciences, Inner Mongolia University, Hohhot 010021, China

                Article
                ncomms15378
                10.1038/ncomms15378
                5436222
                28488673
                43b79168-7edb-4850-8932-721b7cab3b1a
                Copyright © 2017, The Author(s)

                This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in the credit line; if the material is not included under the Creative Commons license, users will need to obtain permission from the license holder to reproduce the material. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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