• Community stability;
  • covariance effect;
  • diversity;
  • ecosystem stability;
  • mowing;
  • nitrogen deposition;
  • nutrient addition;
  • population stability;
  • species richness;
  • species synchrony;
  • statistical averaging;
  • temperate steppe

Ecology Letters (2012)


Anthropogenic perturbations may affect biodiversity and ecological stability as well as their relationships. However, diversity–stability patterns and associated mechanisms under human disturbances have rarely been explored. We conducted a 7-year field experiment examining the effects of mowing and nutrient addition on the diversity and temporal stability of herbaceous plant communities in a temperate steppe in northern China. Mowing increased population and community stability, whereas nutrient addition had the opposite effects. Stability exhibited positive relationships with species richness at population, functional group and community levels. Treatments did not alter these positive diversity–stability relationships, which were associated with the stabilising effect of species richness on component populations, species asynchrony and portfolio effects. Despite the difficulty of pinpointing causal mechanisms of diversity–stability patterns observed in nature, our results suggest that diversity may still be a useful predictor of the stability of ecosystems confronted with anthropogenic disturbances.