Effects of land-use change on productivity depend on small-scale plant species diversity

Nicolas Gross*, Juliette M G Bloor, Frédérique Louault, Vincent Maire, Jean François Soussana

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    19 Citations (Scopus)


    Understanding the interplay between land-use change, species diversity and ecosystem function is critical for the prediction of global change impacts on ecosystem services. Biodiversity experiments with artificial species assemblages have shown that community-scale species richness may affect ecosystem productivity and spatial stability. However, the use of synthetic communities with controlled levels of species density for biodiversity experiments has been criticised and their relevance for natural communities has been questioned. Here, we use a land-use change experiment to investigate the biodiversity effects on production within managed, upland grasslands. We examine species diversity and productivity at both the small plant-neighbourhood scale (14×14 cm) and the field scale (15 m×25 m) for two land-use trajectories under field conditions: intensification through fertilisation, and extensification through the cessation of mowing. Both intensification and extensification were associated with a decrease in species number, but the magnitude of this decrease was greater at the small scale. Extensification was associated with a decrease in small-scale productivity whereas intensification had no significant effect on small-scale productivity. Effects of land-use treatments on biomass production were mediated by variation in small-scale species number; species number showed a significant positive relationship with small-scale productivity within each land-use treatment. Furthermore, species number was associated with a decrease in the variance of small-scale green biomass. In contrast, no species diversity effects were found on productivity at the field scale. Instead, field-scale species diversity decreased with increase in the total above-ground biomass (green biomass+litter). This study demonstrates that biodiversity effects can be observed under field conditions at the small scale and may play an important role for ecosystem functioning and stability even in low-diversity plant communities.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)687-696
    Number of pages10
    JournalBasic and Applied Ecology
    Issue number8
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2009


    • Above-ground biomass production
    • Biodiversity effect
    • Fertilisation
    • Grasslands
    • Intensification
    • Land use
    • Mowing
    • Spatial stability
    • Species richness


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