Plant diversity impacts decomposition and herbivory via changes in aboveground arthropods

Anne Ebeling, Sebastian T. Meyer, Maike Abbas, Nico Eisenhauer, Helmut Hillebrand, Markus Lange, Christoph Scherber, Anja Vogel, Alexandra Weigelt, Wolfgang W. Weisser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


Loss of plant diversity influences essential ecosystem processes as aboveground productivity, and can have cascading effects on the arthropod communities in adjacent trophic levels. However, few studies have examined how those changes in arthropod communities can have additional impacts on ecosystem processes caused by them (e.g. pollination, bioturbation, predation, decomposition, herbivory). Therefore, including arthropod effects in predictions of the impact of plant diversity loss on such ecosystem processes is an important but little studied piece of information. In a grassland biodiversity experiment, we addressed this gap by assessing aboveground decomposer and herbivore communities and linking their abundance and diversity to rates of decomposition and herbivory. Path analyses showed that increasing plant diversity led to higher abundance and diversity of decomposing arthropods through higher plant biomass. Higher species richness of decomposers, in turn, enhanced decomposition. Similarly, species-rich plant communities hosted a higher abundance and diversity of herbivores through elevated plant biomass and C:N ratio, leading to higher herbivory rates. Integrating trophic interactions into the study of biodiversity effects is required to understand the multiple pathways by which biodiversity affects ecosystem functioning.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere106529
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2014


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