such as "Introduction", "Conclusion"..etc
When grasslands are fertilized their productivity is increased but
their plant diversity is diminished. In the last 50 years levels of
plant-available nitrogen and phosphorous have doubled worldwide. This
additional supply of plant nutrients is predicted to be one of the
three most important causes of biodiversity loss this century.
The research, led by Professor Andy Hector from the University of
Zurich, shows for the first time the exact mechanisms that lead to the
loss of biodiversity from grasslands following fertilization.
Competition Following the 'Winner-takes-all' Principle
Different plant species profit from nutrient addition to different
degrees with some species growing much faster than before.
Consequently, some understory species are overgrown by their faster
growing neighbours, shaded and without access to sufficient sunlight
eventually die out. With the help Pascal Niklaus from the ETH Zurich,
researchers from the University of Zurich established an ingenious
experiment where they added artifical light to the understory of
This additional light countered the negative effects of
fertilization and prevented the loss of plant diversity. Counter to
earlier beliefs, competition for soil nutrients had no influence on
changes in grassland diversity.
"This study is the first direct experimental proof that competition
for light is the main mechanism of plant biodiversity loss after
fertilization,"says Yann Hautier summarizing the results of his PhD
work. "The addition of nutrients causes competition for the vital
sunlight to follow a 'winner-takes-all' principle."
Consequences for Management of Grasslands
Competition for light following eutrophication is one of the main
causes of the loss of plant diversity. The results of the work from
Hector's research group have implications for sustainable management of
grasslands and for the development of conservation policy. "Our
research shows that it is necessary to control nutrient enrichment if
plant diversity is to be conserved in the long term" concludes Andy
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