Plant litter strengthens positive biodiversity–ecosystem functioning relationships over time

Wei Ping Zhang, Dario Fornara, Hao Yang, Rui Peng Yu, Ragan M. Callaway, Long Li

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Plant biodiversity–productivity relationships become stronger over time in grasslands, forests, and agroecosystems. Plant shoot and root litter is important in mediating these positive relationships, yet the functional role of plant litter remains overlooked in long-term experiments. We propose that plant litter strengthens biodiversity–ecosystem functioning relationships over time in four ways by providing decomposing detritus that releases nitrogen (N) over time for uptake by existing and succeeding plants, enhancing overall soil fertility, changing soil community composition, and reducing the impact of residue-borne pathogens and pests. We bring new insights into how diversity–productivity relationships may change over time and suggest that the diversification of crop residue retention through increased residue diversity from plant mixtures will improve the sustainability of food production systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)473-484
Number of pages12
JournalTrends in Ecology and Evolution
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2023


  • biodiversity–ecosystem functioning
  • litter mixture
  • nitrogen transfer
  • plant litter
  • residue-borne pathogens
  • soil organic carbon
  • Ecosystem
  • Soil
  • Plants
  • Biodiversity
  • Nitrogen


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