P Brun, C Violle, D Mouillot, N, Mouquet, B J Enquist, F Munoz, T Munkemuller, A Ostling, N E Zimmermann, W Thuiller (2022).

Ecology Letters doi:10.1111/ele.13968

Key message : Through the analysis of over 29,000 diverse grassland communities, we identified key species that played a crucial role in productivity. These key species were distinguished by their tall stature and high specific leaf areas. By comparing their effects with community-level measures of functional composition, including weighted means, variances, skewness, and kurtosis, we discovered that the combined effects of the top five key species explained more of the variation in productivity than any functional composition measure alone. Furthermore, we observed that categorizing the observations based on different habitats increased the explanatory power of key species and functional composition. Additionally, we found that the relationships between key species plant types, functional composition, and productivity varied systematically, likely due to changing interactions and trade-offs between traits. These findings underscore the importance of considering both species-level effects and community-level measures when understanding and managing ecosystem productivity.

Importance and traits of key and keystone species. (a) productivity improvement per percent cover and explained deviance added to the reference model of all species considered. Key species are shown as squares and coloured according to plant type, their subset of keystone species is shown as triangles, and ordinary species are shown as grey circles. (b and c) key species and keystone species, respectively, in a two- dimensional representation of trait space. Isolines are Gaussian mixture density functions of the distributions of key species (black) and ordinary species (grey) respectively.

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OTHER TOPICS: Aesthetics of Biodiversity, Biodiversity & Ecosystem Functioning, Biogeography, Macroecology & Ecophylogenetics, Experimental Evolution, Functional Biogeography, Functional Rarity, Metacommunities, Metaecosystems, Reviews and Synthesis, Trophic Biogeography & Metaweb