|Title||Diversity patterns from sequentially restored grasslands support the ‘environmental heterogeneity hypothesis’|
|Publication Type||Journal Article|
|Year of Publication||In Press|
|Authors||Scott, DA, Baer, SG|
The ‘environmental heterogeneity hypothesis’ (EHH) has been proposed as a mechanism that enables species coexistence through resource partitioning. In accordance with this hypothesis, plant diversity is predicted to increase with variability in resources, but there has been weak support for this hypothesis from experimental studies. The objectives of this research were to 1) characterize how resource availability and heterogeneity (coefficient of variation) change as plant communities develop using sequentially restored grasslands, 2) determine if resource heterogeneity relates to plant diversity (effective number of species, richness, and evenness), and 3) reveal if the strength of resource heterogeneity–diversity relationships is different among levels of resource availability. We quantified means and coefficients of variation in soil nitrate and light availability in grasslands established on former agricultural lands for different times and their relationship to plant diversity using a geostatistically‐informed design. Nitrate availability decreased exponentially with restoration age, but no directional change in nitrate heterogeneity across the chronosequence occurred due to high resource variability in some restorations. Light availability also decreased exponentially across the chronosequence, but there was no directional change in light heterogeneity. Nitrate heterogeneity was positively correlated with both plant richness and plant effective number of species at high levels of nitrate availability. However, no nitrate heterogeneity correlation was detected at low levels of nitrate availability. Light heterogeneity was positively correlated with plant effective number of species at low levels of light availability. However, no light heterogeneity correlation was detected at high levels of light availability. Plant evenness was not correlated with resource heterogeneity at any resource availability level. These results support the positive heterogeneity–diversity relationship predicted by EHH, and uniquely that this relationship develops within a decade of plant community development, but can be obscured by resource availability.