Ecosystems with higher biodiversity (more different species) are often more productive and stable. Experimental manipulation of, for example, the number of plant species has shown that loss of species generally causes a decrease in ecosystem productivity. This effect has been shown to become more important over time, as productivity decreases more quickly in ecosystems with less species.

There are several possible mechanisms, most of which are related to the way the plants interact with each other and with other species, e.g. insects, microbes, and fungi. On the one hand, there can be negative feedback effects that are aggravated in low-diverse communities, e.g., the accumulation of specific pathogens and herbivores, and the over-use of specific of resources. On the other hand, highly diverse communities make more complementary use of resources and can evoke positive feedback effects, such as co-adaptation developing between plants and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF). AMF live in symbiosis with roots of the vast majority of today’s plant species, mobilizing and transferring mineral nutrients from the soil in exchange with carbon from the plants.

Nevertheless, the short- and long-term effects of plant diversity on AMF communities are as unclear as relative importance of AMF for plant diversity-productivity relationships. Because of this, we study AMF in bulk soil, rhizosphere, and root samples from a large biodiversity experiment, the Jena Experiment using meta-barcoding methods. We ask: 1) whether longer-running plant diversity experiments shape AMF differently from recently established communities; 2) whether AMF in both setups show differences in their degree specialization towards plant species; 3) whether common development with plants or other soil microbes or both is important for the effects; 4) whether the patterns observed in AMF are unique to these fungi or also encountered in other soil fungi

Scientists involved in this project

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Cynthia Albracht
Anna Heintz-Buschart


  1. Biotic interactions, community assembly, and eco-evolutionary dynamics as drivers of long-term biodiversity–ecosystem functioning relationships

    Eisenhauer, Nico; Bonkowski, Michael; Brose, Ulrich; Buscot, François; Durka, Walter; Ebeling, Anne; Fischer, Markus; Gleixner, Gerd; Heintz-Buschart, Anna; Hines, Jes; Jesch, Annette; Lange, Markus; Meyer, Sebastian; Roscher, Christiane; Scheu, Stefan; Schielzeth, Holger; Schloter, Michael; Schulz, Stefanie; Unsicker, Sybille; van Dam, Nicole M; Weigelt, Alexandra; Weisser, Wolfgang; Wirth, Christian; Wolf, Jochen; Schmid, Bernhard (2019). Research Ideas and Outcomes: The Open Science Journal, 5:e47042.