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. 2016 May 19;371(1694):20150269.
doi: 10.1098/rstb.2015.0269.

Locally Rare Species Influence Grassland Ecosystem Multifunctionality

Free PMC article

Locally Rare Species Influence Grassland Ecosystem Multifunctionality

Santiago Soliveres et al. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. .
Free PMC article


Species diversity promotes the delivery of multiple ecosystem functions (multifunctionality). However, the relative functional importance of rare and common species in driving the biodiversity-multifunctionality relationship remains unknown. We studied the relationship between the diversity of rare and common species (according to their local abundances and across nine different trophic groups), and multifunctionality indices derived from 14 ecosystem functions on 150 grasslands across a land-use intensity (LUI) gradient. The diversity of above- and below-ground rare species had opposite effects, with rare above-ground species being associated with high levels of multifunctionality, probably because their effects on different functions did not trade off against each other. Conversely, common species were only related to average, not high, levels of multifunctionality, and their functional effects declined with LUI. Apart from the community-level effects of diversity, we found significant positive associations between the abundance of individual species and multifunctionality in 6% of the species tested. Species-specific functional effects were best predicted by their response to LUI: species that declined in abundance with land use intensification were those associated with higher levels of multifunctionality. Our results highlight the importance of rare species for ecosystem multifunctionality and help guiding future conservation priorities.

Keywords: biodiversity; common species; ecosystem function; identity hypothesis; land use; multitrophic.


Figure 1.
Figure 1.
Importance of the different multifunctionality predictors as assessed by the sum of the AIC weights of the models in which each one was retained, divided by the number of models in which each variable was introduced. Green and brown indicate predictors associated with above- and below-ground multidiversity, which included the overall diversity of plants, bryophytes and herbivore, carnivore and decomposer arthropods (above-ground) and soil bacteria, bacterivore protists, arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, and herbivore and carnivore insects (below-ground). Hatched bars indicate negative effects. Common = multidiversity of the top 10% most abundant species (80% of the individuals sampled), rare = multidiversity of the 90% least abundant species (20% of the individuals sampled). Region × indicates the interaction term between study region and a given multidiversity metric. LUI × indicates the interaction term between land use intensity and a given multidiversity metric. The R2 of the best model for each multifunctionality metric (first row in electronic supplementary material, table S3) is provided.
Figure 2.
Figure 2.
Effect of multidiversity of above- and below-ground, common and rare species on the different levels of multifunctionality. Slopes (with confidence intervals) were calculated after controlling for the other predictors in the model and are shown in blue if selected in the best models (see electronic supplementary material, table S3 and figure S2). Note that dots are residuals of both multidiversity and multifunctionality metrics after filtering by study region, LUI, soil pH and depth, and the topographic wetness index. (Online version in colour.)
Figure 3.
Figure 3.
Summary of the relationships between individual species and multifunctionality. The percentage (according to the number of species tested) of significant positive (blue) and negative (red) effects are shown. The averaged results across each category (common versus rare species, above and below ground) are shown. Significant differences (p < 0.05) comparing the proportion of positive and negative effects in common and rare species according to Fisher's exact test are highlighted as ‘*’. n.s., not significant.
Figure 4.
Figure 4.
Relationship between the effect of each species (dots) on multifunctionality (standardized effect size) and its response to land use intensity (LUI). Different colours in dots and lines indicate the relationship found for each trophic group (slopes calculated after filtering by number of sites and average abundance). The black lines indicate the overall relationship (after filtering for the same factors and trophic group). Response to LUI was measured as the standardized slope of a regression between LUI and the abundance of each species.

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