Bottom-up effects of plant diversity on multitrophic interactions in a biodiversity experiment

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  • Christoph Scherber
  • Nico Eisenhauer
  • Wolfgang W. Weisser
  • Bernhard Schmid
  • Winfried Voigt
  • Markus Fischer
  • Ernst-Detlef Schulze
  • Christiane Roscher
  • Alexandra Weigelt
  • Eric Allan
  • Michael Bonkowski
  • Nina Buchmann
  • Francois Buscot
  • Lars W. Clement
  • Anne Ebeling
  • Christof Engels
  • Stefan Halle
  • Ilona Kertscher
  • Robert Koller
  • Stephan König
  • Esther Kowalski
  • Volker Kummer
  • Annely Kuu
  • Markus Lange
  • Dirk Lauterbach
  • Cornelius Middelhoff
  • Varvara D. Migunova
  • Alexandru Milcu
  • Ramona Müller
  • Stephan Partsch
  • Jana S. Petermann
  • Carsten Renker
  • Tanja Rottstock
  • Alexander Sabais
  • Stefan Scheu
  • Jens Schumacher
  • Teja Tscharntke
  • Holger Beler

Biodiversity is rapidly declining, and this may negatively affect ecosystem processes, including economically important ecosystem services. Previous studies have shown that biodiversity has positive effects on organisms and processes across trophic levels. However, only a few studies have so far incorporated an explicit food-web perspective. In an eight-year biodiversity experiment, we studied an unprecedented range of above- and below-ground organisms and multitrophic interactions. A multitrophic data set originating from a single long-term experiment allows mechanistic insights that would not be gained from meta-analysis of different experiments. Here we show that plant diversity effects dampen with increasing trophic level and degree of omnivory. This was true both for abundance and species richness of organisms. Furthermore, we present comprehensive above-ground/below-ground biodiversity food webs. Both above ground and below ground, herbivores responded more strongly to changes in plant diversity than did carnivores or omnivores. Density and richness of carnivorous taxa was independent of vegetation structure. Below-ground responses to plant diversity were consistently weaker than above-ground responses. Responses to increasing plant diversity were generally positive, but were negative for biological invasion, pathogen infestation and hyperparasitism. Our results suggest that plant diversity has strong bottom-up effects on multitrophic interaction networks, with particularly strong effects on lower trophic levels. Effects on higher trophic levels are indirectly mediated through bottom-up trophic cascades.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number7323
Pages (from-to)553-556
Number of pages4
Publication statusPublished - 25.11.2010