Resource-dependent biodiversity and potential multi-trophic interactions determine belowground functional trait stability

Zhu, Lingyue; Chen, Yan; Sun, Ruibo; Zhang, Jiabao; Hale, Lauren; Dumack, Kenneth; Geisen, Stefan; Deng, Ye; Duan, Yinghua; Zhu, Bo; Li, Yan; Liu, Wenzhao; Wang, Xiaoyue; Griffiths, Bryan S.; Bonkowski, Michael; Zhou, Jizhong; Sun, Bo


For achieving long-term sustainability of intensive agricultural practices, it is pivotal to understand belowground functional stability as belowground organisms play essential roles in soil biogeochemical cycling. It is commonly believed that resource availability is critical for controlling the soil biodiversity and belowground organism interactions that ultimately lead to the stabilization or collapse of terrestrial ecosystem functions, but evidence to support this belief is still limited. Here, we leveraged field experiments from the Chinese National Ecosystem Research Network (CERN) and two microcosm experiments mimicking high and low resource conditions to explore how resource availability mediates soil biodiversity and potential multi-trophic interactions to control functional trait stability.
We found that agricultural practice-induced higher resource availability increased potential cross-trophic interactions over 316% in fields, which in turn had a greater effect on functional trait stability, while low resource availability made the stability more dependent on the potential within trophic interactions and soil biodiversity. This large-scale pattern was confirmed by fine-scale microcosm systems, showing that microcosms with sufficient nutrient supply increase the proportion of potential cross-trophic interactions, which were positively associated with functional stability. Resource-driven belowground biodiversity and multi-trophic interactions ultimately feedback to the stability of plant biomass.
Our results indicated the importance of potential multi-trophic interactions in supporting belowground functional trait stability, especially when nutrients are sufficient, and also suggested the ecological benefits of fertilization programs in modern agricultural intensification.