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Data from: Across species-pool aggregation alters grassland productivity and diversity

Cite this dataset

McKenna, Thomas P.; Yurkonis, Kathryn A. (2016). Data from: Across species-pool aggregation alters grassland productivity and diversity [Dataset]. Dryad.


Plant performance is determined by the balance of intra- and interspecific neighbors within an individual's zone of influence. If individuals interact over smaller scales than the scales at which communities are measured, then altering neighborhood interactions may fundamentally affect community responses. These interactions can be altered by changing the number (species richness), abundances (species evenness), and positions (species pattern) of the resident plant species, and we aimed to test whether aggregating species at planting would alter effects of species richness and evenness on biomass production at a common scale of observation in grasslands. We varied plant species richness (2, 4, or 8 species and monocultures), evenness (0.64, 0.8, or 1.0), and pattern (planted randomly or aggregated in groups of four individuals) within 1 × 1 m plots established with transplants from a pool of 16 tallgrass prairie species and assessed plot-scale biomass production and diversity over the first three growing seasons. As expected, more species-rich plots produced more biomass by the end of the third growing season, an effect associated with a shift from selection to complementarity effects over time. Aggregating conspecifics at a 0.25-m scale marginally reduced biomass production across all treatments and increased diversity in the most even plots, but did not alter biodiversity effects or richness–productivity relationships. Results support the hypothesis that fine-scale species aggregation affects diversity by promoting species coexistence in this system. However, results indicate that inherent changes in species neighborhood relationships along grassland diversity gradients may only minimally affect community (meter) – scale responses among similarly designed biodiversity–ecosystem function studies. Given that species varied in their responses to local aggregation, it may be possible to use such species-specific results to spatially design larger-scale grassland communities to achieve desired diversity and productivity responses.

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National Science Foundation, Award: DEB-1144384