Staff Publications

Staff Publications

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    'Staff publications' is the digital repository of Wageningen University & Research

    'Staff publications' contains references to publications authored by Wageningen University staff from 1976 onward.

    Publications authored by the staff of the Research Institutes are available from 1995 onwards.

    Full text documents are added when available. The database is updated daily and currently holds about 240,000 items, of which 72,000 in open access.

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Record number 541012
Title Plant species richness and functional groups have different effects on soil water content in a decade-long grassland experiment
Author(s) Fischer, Christine; Leimer, Sophia; Roscher, Christiane; Ravenek, Janneke; Kroon, Hans de; Kreutziger, Yvonne; Baade, Jussi; Beßler, Holger; Eisenhauer, Nico; Weigelt, Alexandra; Mommer, Liesje; Lange, Markus; Gleixner, Gerd; Wilcke, Wolfgang; Schröder, Boris; Hildebrandt, Anke
Source Journal of Ecology (2018). - ISSN 0022-0477
DOI https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2745.13046
Department(s) Nature Conservation and Plant Ecology
PE&RC
Publication type Refereed Article in a scientific journal
Publication year 2018
Keyword(s) biodiversity - functional groups - Jena Experiment - plant–soil–water relation - soil water content - spatial–temporal variability - species richness
Abstract

The temporal and spatial dynamics of soil water are closely interlinked with terrestrial ecosystems functioning. The interaction between plant community properties such as species composition and richness and soil water mirrors fundamental ecological processes determining above-ground–below-ground feedbacks. Plant–water relations and water stress have attracted considerable attention in biodiversity experiments. Yet, although soil scientific research suggests an influence of ecosystem productivity on soil hydraulic properties, temporal changes of the soil water content and soil hydraulic properties remain largely understudied in biodiversity experiments. Thus, insights on how plant diversity—productivity relationships affect soil water are lacking. Here, we determine which factors related to plant community composition (species and functional group richness, presence of plant functional groups) and soil (organic carbon concentration) affect soil water in a long-term grassland biodiversity experiment (The Jena Experiment). Both plant species richness and the presence of particular functional groups affected soil water content, while functional group richness played no role. The effect of species richness changed from positive to negative and expanded to deeper soil with time. Shortly after establishment, increased topsoil water content was related to higher leaf area index in species-rich plots, which enhanced shading. In later years, higher species richness increased topsoil organic carbon, likely improving soil aggregation. Improved aggregation, in turn, dried topsoils in species-rich plots due to faster drainage of rainwater. Functional groups affected soil water distribution, likely due to plant traits affecting root water uptake depths, shading, or water-use efficiency. For instance, topsoils in plots containing grasses were generally drier, while plots with legumes were moister. Synthesis. Our decade-long experiment reveals that the maturation of grasslands changes the effects of plant richness from influencing soil water content through shading effects to altering soil physical characteristics in addition to modification of water uptake depth. Functional groups affected the soil water distribution by characteristic shifts of root water uptake depth, but did not enhance exploitation of the overall soil water storage. Our results reconcile previous seemingly contradictory results on the relation between grassland species diversity and soil moisture and highlight the role of vegetation composition for soil processes.

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