Cover April 2023

Submitted by editor on 19 April 2023.Get the paper!

For APRIL's cover we have a photo from the site experiment in "Space resource utilization of dominant species integrates abundance- and functional-based processes for better predictions of plant diversity dynamics" by Zhang et al. (2023). One of the researchers is measuring light intensity of NutNet by a 1 m PAR sensor (Decagon, Apogee) on a cloudless noon. Read the abstract from the study below:


Sustainable ecosystem management relies on our ability to predict changes in plant diversity and to understand the underlying mechanisms. Empirical evidence demonstrates that abundance- and functional-based processes simultaneously explain the loss of plant diversity in response to human activities. Recently, a novel indicator based on percent cover (Cover_D) and maximum height (Height_D) of the dominant plant species – space resource utilization (SRU_D) – has proven to give robust and better predictions of plant diversity dynamics than community biomass. Whether the superior predictive ability of SRU_D is due to its capacity to simultaneously capture abundance- and functional-based processes remains unknown. Here, we tested this hypothesis by quantifying mechanistic links between changes in SRU_D and biodiversity in response to nutrients and herbivores. Furthermore, we assessed the relative contribution of dominant, intermediate and rare species to reduced density of individuals by combining null model analysis with field experiments. We found that SRU_D successfully captured changes in ground-level light availability and changes in the number of individuals to predict plant diversity dynamics, and each of Cover_D and Height_D partly and independently contributed to both processes. Comparative results from null model analysis and field experiments confirmed that individual losses of dominant, intermediate and rare species followed non-random processes. Specifically, compared with random loss process, rare species lost proportionally more individuals and thus disproportionately contributed to species loss, while dominant and intermediate species lost less. Our results demonstrate that SRU_D captures both abundance- and functional-based processes thus explaining why SRU_D provides more accurate predictions of changes in species diversity. Given that rare species can play an important role in shaping community structure, resisting against invasion, impacting higher trophic levels and providing multiple ecosystem functions, reducing the SRU of dominant species could alleviate the risk of exclusion of rare species by mitigating abundance- and functional-based competition processes.

Photo by Pengfei Zhang.