Chin J Plant Ecol ›› 2013, Vol. 37 ›› Issue (4): 279-295.DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1258.2013.00028

• Research Articles •     Next Articles

Effects of clipping and fertilizing on the relationships between species diversity and ecosystem functioning and mechanisms of community stability in alpine meadow

WANG Hai-Dong, ZHANG Lu-Lu, ZHU Zhi-Hong*()   

  1. College of Life Sciences, Shaanxi Normal University, Xi’an 710062, China
  • Received:2012-11-20 Accepted:2013-02-25 Online:2013-04-01 Published:2013-04-09
  • Contact: ZHU Zhi-Hong


Aims Recent theoretical and empirical work suggests that species diversity enhances the primary productivity and stability of communities. However, the relationships between the diversity of different species types (i.e., total species, response species, effect species and common species), the special function of ecosystems, and the potential mechanism driving stability remain unclear. Our objective is to address the question by comparing the diversity effect of these different types on aboveground net primary productivity (ANPP) and community stability.
Methods Our experiment was conducted in alpine meadow at the Haibei Research Station of the Chinese Academy of Sciences from 2007 to 2011. We used a split-plot design with clipping treatment in the whole plot using three clipping levels (stubbled 1 cm, 3 cm and unclipped). Subplots were treated with fertilizer (urea 7.5 g·m-2·a-1+ ammonium phosphate 1.8 g·m-2·a-1 and unfertilized) and watering (20.1 kg·m-2·a-1 and unwatered).
Important findings We observed that the diversity of different species types affected ecosystem functioning differently. ANPP was mainly affected by the diversity of response species and effect species, whereas community stability was largely affected by that of common species. The maintenance of stability depended on increasing diversity in common species, and the potential mechanism was the portfolio effect. Both the over-yielding effect and asynchrony effect, however, had no influence on stabilizing the community. Clipping had enormous effects on the diversity of total species, whereas the changes in diversity of response species mainly connected with resource availability. Thus, clipping and fertilization had reverse effects on species diversity, ANPP and stability, i.e., the former increased both species diversity and stability and decreased ANPP, while the latter had opposite effects on them. Our results suggest that ANPP is driven by the diversity of a few effect species because they have a great influence on ANPP, while stability is driven by the diversity of a large number of common species because they can coexist stably in the community. The portfolio effect is the main mechanism of the diversity-stability relationship. The diversity effect of different species differs among each other; therefore, in terms of specific ecosystem functioning, we infer that “functional identity” of species in community is more important than diversity per se and it may be incorrect if we did not discriminate when defining the relationship between species diversity and ecosystem function in any situation.

Key words: alpine meadow, clipping, community stability, fertilizing, primary productivity, species diversity