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Do non-native plant species affect the shape of productivity-diversity relationships?

January 1, 2008

The relationship between ecosystem processes and species richness is an active area of research and speculation. Both theoretical and experimental studies have been conducted in numerous ecosystems. One finding of these studies is that the shape of the relationship between productivity and species richness varies considerably among ecosystems and at different spatial scales, though little is known about the relative importance of physical and biological mechanisms causing this variation. Moreover, despite widespread concern about changes in species' global distributions, it remains unclear if and how such large-scale changes may affect this relationship. We present a new conceptual model of how invasive species might modulate relationships between primary production and species richness. We tested this model using long-term data on relationships between aboveground net primary production and species richness in six North American terrestrial ecosystems. We show that primary production and abundance of non-native species are both significant predictors of species richness, though we fail to detect effects of invasion extent on the shapes of the relationship between species richness and primary production.