The Overlooked Role of Facilitation in Biodiversity Experiments

Alexandra J. Wright, David A. Wardle, Ragan Callaway, Aurora Gaxiola

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

189 Scopus citations


Past research has demonstrated that decreased biodiversity often reduces ecosystem productivity, but variation in the shape of biodiversity–ecosystem function (BEF) relationships begets the need for a deeper mechanistic understanding of what drives these patterns. While mechanisms involving competition are often invoked, the role of facilitation is overlooked, or lumped within several less explicitly defined processes (e.g., complementarity effects). Here, we explore recent advances in understanding how facilitation affects BEF relationships and identify three categories of facilitative mechanisms that can drive variation in those relationships. Species interactions underlying BEF relationships are complex, but the framework we present provides a step toward understanding this complexity and predicting how facilitation contributes to the ecosystem role of biodiversity in a rapidly changing environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)383-390
Number of pages8
JournalTrends in Ecology and Evolution
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2017


  • Climate change
  • Legumes
  • Microclimate amelioration
  • Niche complementarity
  • Overyielding
  • Pathogens
  • Sampling effects
  • Stress gradient hypothesis


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