1.Stability is an important property of ecological systems, many of which are experiencing increasing levels of anthropogenic environmental changes. However, how these environmental changes influence ecosystem stability remains poorly understood.
2.We conducted an 8-year field experiment in a semi-arid natural grassland to explore the effects of two common environmental changes, precipitation and nitrogen enrichment, on the temporal stability of plant above-ground biomass. A split-plot design, with precipitation as the main plot factor and nitrogen as the subplot factor, was used. Temporal stability was related to potential explanatory abiotic and biotic variables using regressions and structural equation modelling.
3.Increase in growing season precipitation enhanced plant species richness and promoted temporal stability of plant above-ground biomass. Nitrogen fertilization, however, reduced both plant species richness and temporal stability of plant above-ground biomass. Contrary to expectations, species richness was not an important driver of stability. Instead, community temporal stability was mainly driven by water and nitrogen availability that modulated the degree of species asynchrony and, to a lesser extent, by the stability of dominant plant species.
4.Synthesis. Our results highlight the importance of limiting resources for regulating community biomass stability and suggest that the projected increase in growing season precipitation may potentially offset negative effects of increased atmospheric nitrogen deposition on species diversity and community stability in semi-arid grasslands.
- nitrogen addition
- statistical inevitability
- competitive communities
- ecosystem stability
- water availability
- plant diversity