Plant Species Diversity Mediates Ecosystem Stability of Natural Dune Grasslands in Response to Drought

Nils M. van Rooijen*, Wanda de Keersmaecker, Wim A. Ozinga, Pol Coppin, Stephan M. Hennekens, Joop H.J. Schaminée, Ben Somers, Olivier Honnay

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


How plant species diversity can mediate the temporal stability of ecosystem functioning during periods of environmental stress is still a pressing question in ecology, certainly in the context of predicted increasing frequencies and intensities of climate extremes, such as drought. The vast majority of empirical research in this context is based on relatively small-scaled experiments, where plant species composition is manipulated and ecosystem functions, such as biomass production, are monitored through time. Results of these studies have generally shown that ecosystem functioning is more stable in more species-diverse communities. Yet, there is very little evidence so far that these relations also hold in naturally assembled plant communities. In this study, we combined historical vegetation and climate data with time series of remotely sensed indicators of aboveground biomass production (MODIS NDVI), to quantify how plant species diversity and plant functional diversity correlate with the temporal stability of biomass production in naturally assembled Dutch dune grasslands under the influence of fluctuating drought. We found that the negative NDVI response to drought of grasslands with a higher plant species richness and diversity was significantly lower than the response of less species rich and species-diverse grasslands, indicating a stabilizing role of plant species richness and diversity on biomass production through time. We found no relation between plant functional diversity and NDVI response to drought. This is the first study to generalize experimentally established relations between species diversity and stability of ecosystem functioning to naturally assembled grasslands across a large spatial and temporal scale.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1383-1394
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2015


  • diversity
  • drought
  • dune grasslands
  • ecosystem functioning
  • NDVI
  • remote sensing
  • stability


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