Explaining variation in the strength of biodiversity-ecosystem function relationships in metacommunities

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Ashley Knudson, Christopher Catano

Experiments demonstrate that communities with more species promote greater ecosystem function. However, variation in the strength of this relationship has caused controversy about the relevance of biodiversity for ecosystem functions in natural, heterogeneous ecosystems. Ashley Knudson, undergraduate student working with Chris Catano, developed an honors thesis project at Tyson to test predictions for how environmental resource availability and functional trait assembly modify the strength of the relationship between herbaceous plant diversity and biomass production. The long-term goal of her research is to make ecological theory more relevant for ecosystem management and biodiversity conservation.