Biodiversity-ecosystem function relationships change through primary succession

Akira S. Mori, Takashi Osono, J. Hans C. Cornelissen, Joseph M. Craine, Masaki Uchida

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    Ecologists traditionally use environmental parameters to predict successional shifts in compositional characteristics of local species assemblages (environmental control). Another important focus in ecology is to understand functional roles of species assemblages in determining local environmental properties (diversity control). Then, the question emerges: which is the cause, and which is the consequence? To clarify the causal relationships between species assemblages and environmental properties, we focused on seral changes in species/functional diversity of vascular plants in tundra ecosystems of the High Arctic. We found that, although species richness was influenced by soil properties in the earlier stages of primary succession, the causalities were reversed in the later stages. We also found functional differentiation among coexisting species in the later stage, suggesting that the 'complementarity effect' of diversity on ecosystem functions likely increased with ecosystem development through time. By contrast, particular species had little disproportional influence on soil properties, suggesting that the 'selection effect' as an alternative mechanism was less important. This result was likely attributed to the importance of facilitation in the marginal High Arctic environment. Plant-microsite associations are shaped by feedback mechanisms and therefore, neither plant nor microsite is a single absolute predictor of the other. Although our observational study has limitations, we demonstrates a possibility that the relative magnitude of the influence of one on the other can change in the process of succession, emphasizing that the causalities underlying biodiversity-ecosystem function relationships change through succession.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1637-1649
    Number of pages13
    Issue number11
    Early online date2 May 2017
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2017


    FundersFunder number
    Japan Society for the Promotion of Science15K07480


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