Mass ratio effects underlie ecosystem responses to environmental change

TitleMass ratio effects underlie ecosystem responses to environmental change
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2020
AuthorsSmith, MD, Koerner, SE, Knapp, AK, Avolio, ML, Chaves, FA, Denton, EM, Dietrich, J, Gibson, DJ, Gray, J, Hoffman, AM, Hoover, DL, Komatsu, KJ, Silletti, A, Wilcox, KR, Yu, Q, Blair, JM
JournalJournal of Ecology
Accession NumberKNZ002001

1. Random species loss has been shown experimentally to reduce ecosystem function, sometimes more than other anthropogenic environmental changes. Yet, controversy surrounds the importance of this finding for natural systems where species loss is non‐random.
2. We compiled data from 16 multi‐year experiments located at a single native tallgrass prairie site. These experiments included responses to 11 anthropogenic environmental changes, as well as non‐random biodiversity loss either the removal of uncommon/rare plant species or the most common (dominant) species.
3. As predicted by the mass ratio hypothesis, loss of a dominant species had large impacts on productivity that were comparable to other anthropogenic drivers. In contrast, the loss of uncommon/rare species had small effects on productivity despite having the largest effects on species richness.
4. The anthropogenic drivers that had the largest effects on productivity nitrogen, irrigation, and fire experienced not only loss of species but also significant changes in the abundance and identity of dominant species.
5. Synthesis. These results suggest that mass ratio effects, rather than species loss per se, are an important determinant of ecosystem function with environmental change.