1. Small-scale plant species richness may enhance local production if the local environment promotes resource partitioning (a form of complementarity) or causes some species to perform better next to interspecific neighbours (facilitation) than when grown in monoculture. Little is known, however, about how species richness and environmental factors such as soil fertility and light levels interact to affect ecosystem production. 2. To determine whether some environments promote a positive richness-production relationship, I performed an experiment using artificial plant communities, selected from a pool of six annuals and one perennial species, with different levels of species richness and composition. Each community was grown in either high or low soil fertility and either full sun or 50% shade. 3. Higher species richness significantly enhanced above-ground production. This effect did not depend on environmental treatment due to consistent sampling effects for a particularly productive and competitive species. However, overyielding, which measures the combined effect of complementarity and facilitation, did depend on environmental conditions and was enhanced by increased soil fertility in plots in full sunlight. 4. Relative yield analyses of species of different height and growth form, coupled with data on the performance of each species in monoculture, support the hypothesis that mixtures overyielded by means of light partitioning (rather than facilitation), an effect that was precluded under shaded conditions. 5. The results therefore suggest that higher annual plant species richness may enhance production when environmental conditions allow for resource partitioning.
- Light partitioning
- Sampling effect
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Plant Science