Enhanced stability of grassland soil temperature by plant diversity

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

Description: 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.

Subject headings: Biodiversity; Climate change ecology; Climate change mitigation; Soil temperature; Plant diversity

Publication year: 2024

Journal or book title: Nature Geoscience

Volume: 17

Issue: 1

Pages: 44-50

Find the full text: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41561-023-01338-5

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Serial number: 3951