Humans modify ecosystems and biodiversity worldwide, with negative consequences for ecosystem functioning. Promoting plant diversity is increasingly suggested as a mitigation strategy. However, our mechanistic understanding of how plant diversity affects the diversity of heterotrophic consumer communities remains limited. Here, we disentangle the relative importance of key components of plant diversity as drivers of herbivore, predator, and parasitoid species richness in experimental forests and grasslands. We find that plant species richness effects on consumer species richness are consistently positive and mediated by elevated structural and functional diversity of the plant communities. The importance of these diversity components differs across trophic levels and ecosystems, cautioning against ignoring the fundamental ecological complexity of biodiversity effects. Importantly, plant diversity effects on higher trophic-level species richness are in many cases mediated by modifications of consumer abundances. In light of recently reported drastic declines in insect abundances, our study identifies important pathways connecting plant diversity and consumer diversity across ecosystems.
Andreas Schuldt, Anne Ebeling, Matthias Kunz, Michael Staab, Claudia Guimaraes-Steinicke, Dörte Bachmann, Nina Buchmann, Walter Durka, Andreas Fichtner, Felix Fornoff, Werner Härdtle, Lionel R. Hertzog, Alexandra-Maria Klein, Christiane Roscher, Jörg Schaller, Goddert von Oheimb, Alexandra Weigelt, Wolfgang Weisser, Christian Wirth, Jiayong Zhang, Helge Bruelheide, and Nico Eisenhauer. 2019. Multiple plant diversity components drive consumer communities across ecosystems. Nature Communications. 10:1460. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-019-09448-8.