Drought-exposure history improves recovery of grassland communities from subsequent drought

Western Australia

When a plant community is exposed to drought, the different species undergo evolutionary changes. An international study with UZH participation now shows that this leads to improved resilience to future drought stress over time.

Mixtures are better than monocultures
Offspring from plants with drought-exposure history recovered faster from the subsequent drought than those from plants without such a history; however, this was only evident when plants were grown in mixtures but not in monocultures. “These findings suggest that, in diverse plant communities, species over time can evolve better cooperation, thus increasing the stability of an ecosystem to disturbance from outside. This has important implications for biodiversity conservation under global climate-change scenarios,” says Professor Bernhard Schmid of the University of Zurich, senior author of the current publication in Nature Communications. “Conserving biodiversity can improve the adaptation of plant communities to extreme events. This adaptation is only possible if species co-experienced the past events and also face the future events together, not alone.”

Yuxin Chen, Anja Vogel, Cameron Wagg, Tianyang Xu, Maitane Iturrate-Garcia, Michael Scherer-Lorenzen, Alexandra Weigelt, Nico Eisenhauer, Bernhard Schmid.
Drought-exposure history increases complementarity between plant species in response to a subsequent drought.
Nature Communications, 2022. doi: 10.1038/s41467-022-30954-9

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