Overyielding in species mixtures

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Published on: November 22, 2012

Highlighted article: Gerlinde B. De Deyn, Helen Quirk, Simon Oakley, Nick Ostle, Richard D. Bardgett (2012) Increased Plant Carbon Translocation Linked to Overyielding in Grassland Species Mixtures. PLoS ONE 7(9): e45926. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0045926

Plant biomass yield is often greater in areas where species richness is high than it is in monocultures. This has implications for agriculture, and also the use of non-farmed land as a carbon sink, as more biomass means more carbon assimilation. However, the relationship between growth and species richness on a plot of land is not constant or clear, so a group in Lancaster investigated it. I think their research threw up more questions than it answered, but the authors found intriguing links between lifetime biomass yield and speed of carbon transport from the leaves to other parts of the plants and found that non-legumes and legumes alike benefit from growing alongside one another.

Deyn et al. planted seedlings in monocultures or in a mixture and sampled soil and plant matter at 2, 24, and 48 hours, and finally at 8 days, after labeling carbon in the system using a 13CO2 pulse (Ostle et al., 2003). They assessed carbon assimilation and carbon/nitrogen ratio. Two years later, all the above-ground vegetation was harvested and weighed to obtain ‘yield’ data. The species used were common grassland species Trifolium repens and Lotus cornicalatus (both leguminous species), Plantgo lanceolata, Anthoxanthum odoratum, Achillea millefolium, and Lolium perenne. (more…)

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