Thursday, 23 October 2014

Polycultures drive plant diversity (#journal)

Selection for niche differentiation in plant communities increases biodiversity effects

In experimental plant communities, relationships between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning have been found to strengthen over time. This paper shows that selection for niche differentiation between species can drive this increasing biodiversity effect. When grown in mixtures, relative differences in height and leaf area between plant species selected in mixtures (mixture types) were greater than between species selected in monocultures (monoculture types). Furthermore, net biodiversity and complementarity effects were greater in mixtures of mixture types than in mixtures of monoculture types. Our study demonstrates a novel mechanism for the increase in biodiversity effects: selection for increased niche differentiation through character displacement. Selection in diverse mixtures may therefore allow increased mixture yields in agriculture or forestry.

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