Productivity is a poor predictor of plant species richness

Peter B. Adler*, Eric W. Seabloom, Elizabeth T. Borer, Helmut Hillebrand, Yann Hautier, Andy Hector, W. Stanley Harpole, Lydia R. O'Halloran, James B. Grace, T. Michael Anderson, Jonathan D. Bakker, Lori A. Biederman, Cynthia S. Brown, Yvonne M. Buckley, Laura B. Calabrese, Cheng Jin Chu, Elsa E. Cleland, Scott L. Collins, Kathryn L. Cottingham, Michael J. CrawleyEllen I. Damschen, Kendi F. Davies, Nicole M. DeCrappeo, Philip A. Fay, Jennifer Firn, Paul Frater, Eve I. Gasarch, Daniel S. Gruner, Nicole Hagenah, Janneke Hille Ris Lambers, Hope Humphries, Virginia L. Jin, Adam D. Kay, Kevin P. Kirkman, Julia A. Klein, Johannes M.H. Knops, Kimberly J. La Pierre, John G. Lambrinos, Wei Li, Andrew S. MacDougall, Rebecca L. McCulley, Brett A. Melbourne, Charles E. Mitchell, Joslin L. Moore, John W. Morgan, Brent Mortensen, John L. Orrock, Suzanne M. Prober, David A. Pyke, Anita C. Risch, Martin Schuetz, Melinda D. Smith, Carly J. Stevens, Lauren L. Sullivan, Gang Wang, Peter D. Wragg, Justin P. Wright, Louie H. Yang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

480 Citations (Scopus)


For more than 30 years, the relationship between net primary productivity and species richness has generated intense debate in ecology about the processes regulating local diversity. The original view, which is still widely accepted, holds that the relationship is hump-shaped, with richness first rising and then declining with increasing productivity. Although recent meta-analyses questioned the generality of hump-shaped patterns, these syntheses have been criticized for failing to account for methodological differences among studies. We addressed such concerns by conducting standardized sampling in 48 herbaceous-dominated plant communities on five continents. We found no clear relationship between productivity and fine-scale (meters-2) richness within sites, within regions, or across the globe. Ecologists should focus on fresh, mechanistic approaches to understanding the multivariate links between productivity and richness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1750-1753
Number of pages4
Issue number6050
Publication statusPublished - 23 Oct 2011
Externally publishedYes

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