We investigated the effect of species richness on productivity in randomly assembled grassland communities without legumes. Aboveground biomass increased with increasing species richness and different measures of complementarity showed strong increases with plant species richness. Increasing productivity could not be attributed to a relative increase of highly productive species. Instead, the increase appeared to be caused by the increased performance of several low-productive species. Our results provide evidence that niche complementarity can strongly increase productivity in grasslands, although the communities contained only grasses and forbs.
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