Soil fungal pathogens and the relationship between plant diversity and productivity

John L. Maron, Marilyn Marler, John N. Klironomos, Cory C. Cleveland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

329 Scopus citations

Abstract

One robust result from many small-scale experiments has been that plant community productivity often increases with increasing plant diversity. Most frequently, resource-based or competitive interactions are thought to drive this positive diversity-productivity relationship. Here, we ask whether suppression of plant productivity by soil fungal pathogens might also drive a positive diversity-productivity relationship. We created plant assemblages that varied in diversity and crossed this with a ± soil fungicide treatment. In control (non-fungicide treated) assemblages there was a strong positive relationship between plant diversity and above-ground plant biomass. However, in fungicide-treated assemblages this relationship disappeared. This occurred because fungicide increased plant production by an average of 141% at the lower ends of diversity but boosted production by an average of only 33% at the higher ends of diversity, essentially flattening the diversity-productivity curve. These results suggest that soil pathogens might be a heretofore unappreciated driver of diversity-productivity relationships.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)36-41
Number of pages6
JournalEcology Letters
Volume14
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2011

Keywords

  • Diversity-productivity
  • Native plant diversity
  • Plant productivity
  • Soil pathogens

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