Dispersal and seed limitation affect diversity and productivity of montane grasslands

Claudia Stein, Harald Auge, Markus Fischer, Wolfgang W. Weisser, Daniel Prati

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


So far, seed limitation as a local process, and dispersal limitation as a regional process have been largely neglected in biodiversity-ecosystem functioning research. However, these processes can influence both local plant species diversity and ecosystem processes, such as biomass production. We added seeds of 60 species from the regional species pool to grassland communities at 20 montane grassland sites in Germany. In these sites, plant species diversity ranged from 10 to 34 species m-2 and, before manipulation, diversity was not related to aboveground biomass, which ranged from 108 to 687 g m -2. One year after seed addition, local plant species richness had increased on average by six species m-2 (29%) compared with control plots, and this increase was highest in grasslands with intermediate productivity. The increased diversity after adding seeds was associated with an average increase of aboveground biomass of 36 g m-2 (14.8%) compared with control plots. Thus, our results demonstrate that a positive relationship between changes in species richness and productivity, as previously reported from experimental plant communities, also holds for natural grassland ecosystems. Our results show that local plant communities are dispersal limited and a hump-shaped model appears to be the limiting outline of the natural diversity-productivity relationship. Hence, the effects of dispersal on local diversity can substantially affect the functioning of natural ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1469-1478
Number of pages10
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2008
Externally publishedYes


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