Improved water retention links high species richness with increased productivity in arctic tundra moss communities

Christian Rixen, C P Mulder


A positive relationship between plant species richness and ecosystem functioning has been found in a number of experimental studies. Positive species interactions at high species numbers have been suggested as a cause, but mechanisms driving positive interactions have not often been tested. In this experiment we asked three questions: (1) What is the relationship between species richness and productivity in experimentally constructed moss communities? (2) Is this relationship affected by plant density? and (3) Can changes in moisture absorption and retention explain observed relationships? To answer these questions we exposed arctic tundra moss communities of different species richness levels (1-11 species) and two different densities in the greenhouse to two levels of drought (short and long). Biomass (by the community and individual species), height and community moisture absorption and retention were measured as response variables. High species diversity increased productivity (more so in low-density plots than in high-density plots), but only when plots were watered regularly. Plot moisture retention was improved at high species richness as well, and plant height and variation in height was increased compared to plants in m...Continue Reading


Sep 9, 2000·Science·M A HustonD A Wardle
May 24, 2001·Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America·C P MulderD F Doak
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Jun 21, 2002·Nature·Ragan M CallawayBradley J Cook
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