Nonlinear partitioning of biodiversity effects on ecosystem functioning

Jan M. Baert, Stijn Jaspers, Colin R. Janssen, Frederik De Laender, Marc Aerts

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Assessing the consequences of biodiversity changes for ecosystem functioning requires separating the net effect of biodiversity from potential confounding effects such as the identity of the gained or lost species. Additive partitioning methods allow factoring out these species identify effects by comparing species’ functional contributions against the predictions of a null model under which functional contributions are independent of biodiversity. Classic additive partitioning methods quantify biodiversity effects based on a linear relationship between species deviations from the null model and their functional traits. However, based on ecological theory, nonlinear relationships are also possible. Here, we demonstrate how additive-partitioning methods can be extended to describe such nonlinear relationships, and explain how nonlinear biodiversity effects can be interpreted. We apply both linear and nonlinear partitioning methods to the Cedar Creek Biodiversity II experiment. Nonlinear relationships were detected in the majority of plots, and increased with diversity. Nonlinear partitioning thereby identified a convex relationship between species functional traits and their deviations from the null model, driven by strong positive effects of both species with low and high functional trait values trait values on ecosystem functioning. The presented nonlinear extension of additive partitioning methods is therefore essential for revealing more complex biodiversity effects on ecosystem functioning, that are likely to occur in biodiversity experiments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1233-1240
Number of pages8
Journal Methods in Ecology and Evolution
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2017


  • biodiversity
  • community ecology
  • ecosystem functioning
  • statistics


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