Positive plant diversity-soil stability relationships are mediated through roots in the Songnen Grassland: Chronosequence evidence
Living plant diversity (excluding the litter issue) may affect below-ground properties and processes, which is critical to obtaining an integrated biodiversity-ecosystem functioning theory. However, related patterns and underlying mechanisms have rarely been examined, especially lacking long-term evidence. We conducted a factorial crossed sample survey to examine the effects of plant diversity on soil stability over succession based on space-for-time substitution in the Songnen Steppes, North-Eastern China. The results indicate that, under natural colonizing conditions, species-poor systems achieved lower soil stability than species-rich systems, regardless of successional stage. However, soil stability was significantly regulated by plant species richness (number), composition (identity), density (abundance), and functional roles. Our results confirm that a long-term positive plant diversity-soil stability relationship exists in steppe succession. In particular, this enhanced effect of biodiversity on soil stability may operate via diversifying plant root traits. Our results may underpin an integrated biodiversity-ecosystem functioning theory, and improve human use and conservation management of natural resources at an integrated ecosystem level.