Plants are less negatively affected by flooding when growing in species-rich plant communities

Alexandra J. Wright*, Hans de Kroon, Eric J.W. Visser, Tina Buchmann, Anne Ebeling, Nico Eisenhauer, Christine Fischer, Anke Hildebrandt, Janneke Ravenek, Christiane Roscher, Alexandra Weigelt, Wolfgang Weisser, Laurentius A.C.J. Voesenek, Liesje Mommer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Flooding is expected to increase in frequency and severity in the future. The ecological consequences of flooding are the combined result of species-specific plant traits and ecological context. However, the majority of past flooding research has focused on individual model species under highly controlled conditions. An early summer flooding event in a grassland biodiversity experiment in Jena, Germany, provided the opportunity to assess flooding responses of 60 grassland species in monocultures and 16-species mixtures. We examined plant biomass, species-specific traits (plant height, specific leaf area (SLA), root aerenchyma, starch content) and soil porosity. We found that, on average, plant species were less negatively affected by the flood when grown in higher-diversity plots in July 2013. By September 2013, grasses were unaffected by the flood regardless of plant diversity, and legumes were severely negatively affected regardless of plant diversity. Plants with greater SLA and more root aerenchyma performed better in September. Soil porosity was higher in higher-diversity plots and had a positive effect on plant performance. As floods become more frequent and severe in the future, growing flood-sensitive plants in higher-diversity communities and in soil with greater soil aeration may attenuate the most negative effects of flooding.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)645-656
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2017



  • aerenchyma
  • diversity
  • flooding traits
  • grasses
  • legumes
  • plant functional groups
  • soil air porosity
  • specific leaf area (SLA)

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