Testing the mechanisms of diversity-dependent overyielding in a grass species

Daniel Z. Atwater, Ragan M. Callaway

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Plant diversity enhances many ecosystem processes, including productivity, but these effects have been studied almost exclusively at the taxonomic scale of species. We explore the effect of intraspecific diversity on the productivity of a widespread and dominant grassland species using accessions collected from populations throughout its range. We found that increasing population/ecotype diversity of Pseudoroegneria spicata increased productivity to a similar degree as that reported for species diversity. However, we did not find evidence that overyielding was related to either resource depletion or to pathogenic soil fungi, two causes of overyielding in species-diverse communities. Instead, larger accessions overyielded at low diversity at the expense of smaller accessions, and small accessions overyielded through complementarity at all levels of diversity. Furthermore, overyielding was stronger for accessions from mesic environments, suggesting that local adaptation might predictably influence how plants respond to increases in diversity. This suggests that mass-based competition or other cryptic accession-specific processes had complex but important effects on overyielding. Our results indicate that the effects of diversity within a species can be substantial but that overyielding by intraspecifically diverse populations may not be through the same processes thought to cause overyielding in species diverse communities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3332-3342
Number of pages11
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2015


  • Biodiversity
  • Complementarity
  • Dominance effects
  • Nitrogen use efficiency
  • Overyielding
  • Plant-plant interactions
  • Productivity
  • Pseudoroegneria spicata
  • Resource use
  • Selection effects
  • Soil fungi


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