Positive linear relationship between productivity and diversity: evidence from the Eurasian Steppe.

Published online
21 Nov 2007
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
Journal of Applied Ecology

Bai YongFei & Wu JianGuo & Pan QingMin & Huang JianHui & Wang QiBing & Li FuSheng & Buyantuyev, A. & Han XingGuo
Contact email(s)

Publication language
Nei Mongol & China


Understanding the productivity-diversity relationship (PDR) is a key issue in biodiversity-ecosystem functioning research, and has important implications for ecosystem management. Most studies have supported the predominance of a hump-shaped form of PDR in which species richness peaks at an intermediate level of productivity. However, this view has been challenged recently on several grounds. Based on data from 854 field sites across the Inner Mongolia region of the Eurasian Steppe, we tested the form of PDR at different organizational levels (association type, vegetation type and biome) and multiple spatial scales (local, landscape and regional). Our results showed that a positive linear, rather than hump-shaped, form was ubiquitous across all organizational levels and spatial scales examined. On the regional scale, this monotonic PDR pattern corresponded closely with the gradient in mean annual precipitation (MAP) and soil nitrogen. Increasing species dissimilarity with productivity could also contribute to the positive linear form of PDR. Our results also indicated that grazing decreased both primary productivity and species richness but, intriguingly, not the form of PDR. Synthesis and applications. This study provides the first direct test of the productivity-diversity relationship for the world's largest contiguous terrestrial biome - the Eurasian Steppe. The predominance of a positive linear relationship in this region defies the commonly held view that a unimodal form of PDR dominates terrestrial ecosystems, supported mainly by studies in Africa, Europe and North America. It suggests that precipitation has a greater control on the productivity-diversity relationship in the Eurasian Steppe than grasslands elsewhere. Also, the positive linear relationship is surprisingly robust to grazing. Our results provide new insight into the productivity-diversity relationship and have several implications for restoring degraded lands and understanding ecological consequences of climate change in the Eurasian Steppe.

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