Plant species diversity affects infiltration capacity in an experimental grassland through changes in soil properties

C. Fischer*, J. Tischer, C. Roscher, N. Eisenhauer, J. Ravenek, G. Gleixner, S. Attinger, B. Jensen, H. de Kroon, L. Mommer, S. Scheu, A. Hildebrandt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

82 Citations (Scopus)


Background and aims Soil hydraulic properties drive water distribution and availability in soil. There exists limited knowledge of how plant species diversity might influence soil hydraulic properties. Methods We quantified the change in infiltration capacity affected by soil structural variables (soil bulk density, porosity and organic carbon content) along a gradient of soil texture, plant species richness (1, 2, 4, 8, 16 and 60)and functional group composition (grasses, legumes, small herbs, tall herbs). We conducted two infiltration measurement campaigns (May and October 2012) using a hood infiltrometer. Results Plant species richness significantly increased infiltration capacity in the studied grasslands. Both soil porosity (or inversely bulk density) and organic carbon played an important role in mediating the plant species richness effect. Soil texture did not correlate with infiltration capacity. In spring 2012, earthworm biomass increased infiltration capacity, but this effect could not be attributed to changes in soil structural variables. Conclusions We experimentally identified important ecological drivers of infiltration capacity, suggesting complex interactions between plant species richness, earthworms, and soil structural variables, while showing little impact of soil texture. Changes in plant species richness may thus have significant effects on soil hydraulic properties with potential consequences for surface run-off and soil erosion.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-16
JournalPlant and Soil
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Infiltration capacity
  • Plant species richness
  • Soil organic carbon content
  • Soil porosity
  • The Jena experiment


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