• Complementarity effect;
  • facilitation;
  • fungal diversity;
  • insurance hypothesis;
  • mycorrhizal fungi;
  • quantitative PCR;
  • selection effect;
  • soil biodiversity

Ecology Letters (2011) 14: 1001–1009


Soil microbes play key roles in ecosystems, yet the impact of their diversity on plant communities is still poorly understood. Here we demonstrate that the diversity of belowground plant-associated soil fungi promotes plant productivity and plant coexistence. Using additive partitioning of biodiversity effects developed in plant biodiversity studies, we demonstrate that this positive relationship can be driven by complementarity effects among soil fungi in one soil type and by a selection effect resulting from the fungal species that stimulated plant productivity the most in another soil type. Selection and complementarity effects among fungal species contributed to improving plant productivity up to 82% and 85%, respectively, above the average of the respective fungal species monocultures depending on the soil in which they were grown. These results also indicate that belowground diversity may act as insurance for maintaining plant productivity under differing environmental conditions.