Enhanced stability of grassland soil temperature by plant diversity

Yuanyuan Huang, Gideon Stein, Olaf Kolle, Karl Kübler, Ernst Detlef Schulze, Hui Dong, David Eichenberg, Gerd Gleixner, Anke Hildebrandt, Markus Lange, Christiane Roscher, Holger Schielzeth, Bernhard Schmid, Alexandra Weigelt, Wolfgang W. Weisser, Maha Shadaydeh, Joachim Denzler, Anne Ebeling, Nico Eisenhauer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Extreme weather events are occurring more frequently, and research has shown that plant diversity can help mitigate the impacts of climate change by increasing plant productivity and ecosystem stability. Although soil temperature and its stability are key determinants of essential ecosystem processes, no study has yet investigated whether plant diversity buffers soil temperature fluctuations over long-term community development. Here we have conducted a comprehensive analysis of a continuous 18-year dataset from a grassland biodiversity experiment with high spatial and temporal resolutions. Our findings reveal that plant diversity acts as a natural buffer, preventing soil heating in hot weather and cooling in cold weather. This diversity effect persists year-round, intensifying with the aging of experimental communities and being even stronger under extreme climate conditions, such as hot days or dry years. Using structural equation modelling, we found that plant diversity stabilizes soil temperature by increasing soil organic carbon concentrations and, to a lesser extent, plant leaf area index. Our results suggest that, in lowland grasslands, the diversity-induced stabilization of soil temperature may help to mitigate the negative effects of extreme climatic events such as soil carbon decomposition, thus slowing global warming.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)44-50
Number of pages7
JournalNature Geoscience
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2024
Externally publishedYes


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