• Biodiversity;
  • biological invasions;
  • ecosystem functioning;
  • insect abundance;
  • insect diversity;
  • plant diseases;
  • plant pathogens

Declining biodiversity represents one of the most dramatic and irreversible aspects of anthropogenic global change, yet the ecological implications of this change are poorly understood. Recent studies have shown that biodiversity loss of basal species, such as autotrophs or plants, affects fundamental ecosystem processes such as nutrient dynamics and autotrophic production. Ecological theory predicts that changes induced by the loss of biodiversity at the base of an ecosystem should impact the entire system. Here we show that experimental reductions in grassland plant richness increase ecosystem vulnerability to invasions by plant species, enhance the spread of plant fungal diseases, and alter the richness and structure of insect communities. These results suggest that the loss of basal species may have profound effects on the integrity and functioning of ecosystems.