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Data from: SRUD: a simple non-destructive method for accurate quantification of plant diversity dynamics

Cite this dataset

Zhang, Pengfei et al. (2019). Data from: SRUD: a simple non-destructive method for accurate quantification of plant diversity dynamics [Dataset]. Dryad.


1. Predicting changes in plant diversity in response to human activities represents one of the major challenges facing ecologists and land managers striving for sustainable ecosystem management. Classical field studies have emphasized the importance of community primary productivity in regulating changes in plant species richness. However, experimental studies have yielded inconsistent empirical evidence, suggesting that primary productivity is not the sole determinant of plant diversity. Recent work has shown that more accurate predictions of changes in species diversity can be achieved by combining measures of species' cover and height into an index of Space Resource Utilization (SRU). While the SRU approach provides reliable predictions, it is time-consuming and requires extensive taxonomic expertise. Ecosystem processes and plant community structure are likely driven primarily by dominant species (mass-ratio effect). Within communities, it is likely that dominant and rare species have opposite contributions to overall biodiversity trends. We therefore suggest that better species richness predictions can be achieved by utilizing SRU assessments of only the dominant species (SRUD), as compared to SRU or biomass of the entire community. 2. Here, we assess the ability of these measures to predict changes in plant diversity as driven by nutrient addition and herbivore exclusion. First, we tested our hypotheses by carrying out a detailed analysis in an alpine grassland that measured all species within the community. Next, we assessed the broader applicability of our approach by measuring the first three dominant species for five additional experimental grassland sites across a wide geographic and habitat range. 3. We show that SRUD outperforms community biomass, as well as community SRU, in predicting biodiversity dynamics in response to nutrients and herbivores in an alpine grassland. Across our additional sites, SRUD yielded far better predictions of changes in species richness than community biomass, demonstrating the robustness and generalizable nature of this approach. 4. Synthesis. The SRUD approach provides a simple, non-destructive and more accurate means to monitor and predict the impact of global change drivers and management interventions on plant communities, thereby facilitating efforts to maintain and recover plant diversity.

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