Forest Isbell's research while affiliated with Bethel University (Minnesota) and other places

Publications (79)

Preprint
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Eutrophication impacts plant diversity such as species richness, functional trait diversity and composition of grassland communities globally, but whether and how these changes affect the functional stability of grasslands under increasing climate extremes is unknown. We quantify the direct and diversity-mediated effects of nutrient addition on fun...
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Global biodiversity and ecosystem service models typically operate independently. Ecosystem service projections may therefore be overly optimistic because they do not always account for the role of biodiversity in maintaining ecological functions. We review models used in recent global model intercomparison projects and develop a novel model integr...
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The global rise in anthropogenic reactive nitrogen (N) and the negative impacts of N deposition on terrestrial plant diversity are well-documented. The R* theory of resource competition predicts reversible decreases in plant diversity in response to N loading. However, empirical evidence for the reversibility of N-induced biodiversity loss is mixed...
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Despite substantial progress in understanding global biodiversity loss, major taxonomic and geographic knowledge gaps remain. Decision makers often rely on expert judgement to fill knowledge gaps, but are rarely able to engage with sufficiently large and diverse groups of specialists. To improve understanding of the perspectives of thousands of bio...
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Climate and land-use change are some of the most profound threats to the biodiversity and functioning of the Earth’s ecosystems. However, potential synergistic effects of these drivers through biodiversity change on ecosystem functioning remain unclear. Here we examined how aridity and land-use (overgrazing and haying) affect above-ground biomass a...
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Intraspecific diversity (genetic diversity) is an important component of biodiversity. A substantial body of evidence has demonstrated positive direct or indirect effects of plant genetic diversity on plant performance. However, it has remained unclear whether plant genetic diversity increases plant performance by reducing the pressure of plant-dam...
Preprint
1. Human impacts have led to dramatic biodiversity change which can be highly scale-dependent across space and time. A primary means to manage these changes is via passive or active ecological restoration. The recovery of biodiversity following the removal of disturbance (passive) is often incomplete. The magnitude of recovery can very much depend...
Chapter
The traditional use of indicator species is to monitor for changes in the environment, rather than in biodiversity, so a combined temporal trend for such species may suggest much more rapid biodiversity change. Despite the difficulties, there is unambiguous evidence that biodiversity has changed over time both naturally and as driven by human‐cause...
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Human impacts on the Earth’s biosphere are driving the global biodiversity crisis. Governments are preparing to agree on a set of actions intended to halt the loss of biodiversity and put it on a path to recovery by 2050. We provide evidence that the proposed actions can bend the curve for biodiversity, but only if these actions are implemented urg...
Chapter
This chapter considers two widespread conservation strategies, protected areas and ecological restoration, while briefly mentioning a few additional strategies. It describes how protecting biodiversity can also help protect ecosystem functioning and services. The chapter also describes how increasing the levels of biodiversity in restoration scheme...
Technical Report
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EXPERT INPUT TO THE POST-2020 GLOBAL BIODIVERSITY FRAMEWORK: TRANSFORMATIVE ACTIONS ON ALL DRIVERS OF BIODIVERSITY LOSS ARE URGENTLY REQUIRED TO ACHIEVE THE GLOBAL GOALS BY 2050
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Models help decision-makers anticipate the consequences of policies for ecosystems and people; for instance, improving our ability to represent interactions between human activities and ecological systems is essential to identify pathways to meet the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. However, use of modeling outputs in decision-making remains unc...
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Relationships between species diversity, productivity, temporal stability of productivity, and plant invasion have been well documented in grasslands, and these relationships could translate to improved agricultural sustainability. However, few studies have explored these relationships in agricultural contexts where fertility and weeds are managed....
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Feedbacks are an essential feature of resilient socio-economic systems, yet the feedbacks between biodiversity, ecosystem services and human wellbeing are not fully accounted for in global policy efforts that consider future scenarios for human activities and their consequences for nature. Failure to integrate feedbacks in our knowledge frameworks...
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Global change is impacting plant community composition, but the mechanisms underlying these changes are unclear. Using a dataset of 58 global change experiments, we tested the five fundamental mechanisms of community change: changes in evenness and richness, reordering, species gains and losses. We found 71% of communities were impacted by global c...
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The global impacts of biodiversity loss and climate change are interlinked, but the feedbacks between them are rarely assessed. Areas with greater tree diversity tend to be more productive, providing a greater carbon sink, and biodiversity loss could reduce these natural carbon sinks. Here, we quantify how tree and shrub species richness could affe...
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Biological insurance theory predicts that, in a variable environment, aggregate ecosystem properties will vary less in more diverse communities because declines in the performance or abundance of some species or phenotypes will be offset, at least partly, by smoother declines or increases in others. During the past two decades, ecology has accumula...
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Biomass production in ecosystems is a complex process regulated by several facets of biodiversity, species identity but also species interactions such as competition or complementarity between species. For studying these different facets separately, ecosystem biomass is generally partitioned in two biodiversity effects. The composition effect is a...
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Soil fungi can help improve ecosystem restoration, yet our understanding of how they reassemble in degraded land is limited. Here, using DNA metabarcoding, we studied the fungal community structure in reforested sites following agricultural abandonment and ungulate overabundance. Two treatments, namely “reforestation using different numbers of tree...
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Human activity and land use change impact every landscape on Earth, driving declines in many animal species while benefiting others. Species ecological and life history traits may predict success in human-dominated landscapes such that only species with "winning" combinations of traits will persist in disturbed environments. However, this link betw...
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Our planet is facing significant changes of biodiversity across spatial scales. Although the negative effects of local biodiversity (α diversity) loss on ecosystem stability are well documented, the consequences of biodiversity changes at larger spatial scales, in particular biotic homogenization, i.e. reduced species turnover across space (β diver...
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The biotic mechanisms underlying ecosystem functioning and stability have been extensively — but separately — explored in the literature, making it difficult to understand the relationship between functioning and stability. In this study, we used community models to examine how complementarity and selection, the two major biodiversity mechanisms kn...
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The proposed Biology Integration Institute will bring together two major research institutions in the Upper Midwest—the University of Minnesota (UMN) and University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW)—to investigate the causes and consequences of plant biodiversity across scales in a rapidly changing world —from genes and molecules within cells and tissues t...
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The mere threat of predation may incite behavioral changes in prey that lead to community-wide impacts on productivity, biodiversity, and nutrient cycling. The paucity of experimental manipulations, however, has contributed to controversy over the strength of this pathway in wide-ranging vertebrate systems. We investigated whether simulated gray wo...
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Understanding how global change drivers (GCDs) affect aboveground net primary production (ANPP) through time is essential to predicting the reliability and maintenance of ecosystem function and services in the future. While GCDs, such as drought, warming and elevated nutrients, are known to affect mean ANPP, less is known about how they affect inte...
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A large body of research shows that biodiversity loss can reduce ecosystem functioning. However, much of the evidence for this relationship is drawn from biodiversity–ecosystem functioning experiments in which biodiversity loss is simulated by randomly assembling communities of varying species diversity, and ecosystem functions are measured. This r...
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Eutrophication is a widespread environmental change that usually reduces the stabilizing effect of plant diversity on productivity in local communities. Whether this effect is scale dependent remains to be elucidated. Here, we determine the relationship between plant diversity and temporal stability of productivity for 243 plant communities from 42...
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Global biodiversity policy is at a crossroads. Recent global assessments of living nature (1, 2) and climate (3) show worsening trends and a rapidly narrowing window for action. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) has recently announced that none of the 20 Aichi targets for biodiversity it set in 2010 has been reached and only six have bee...
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Human activities are enriching many of Earth’s ecosystems with biologically limiting mineral nutrients such as nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P). In grasslands, this enrichment generally reduces plant diversity and increases productivity. The widely demonstrated positive effect of diversity on productivity suggests a potential negative feedback, wher...
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Biodiversity loss can alter ecosystem functioning; however, it remains unclear how it alters decomposition-a critical component of biogeochemical cycles in the biosphere. Here, we provide a global-scale meta-analysis to quantify how changes in the diversity of organic matter derived from plants (i.e. litter) affect rates of decomposition. We find t...
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In most plant communities, the net effect of nitrogen enrichment is an increase in plant productivity. However, nitrogen enrichment also has been shown to decrease species richness and to acidify soils, each of which may diminish the long‐term impact of nutrient enrichment on productivity. Here we use a long‐term (20‐yr) grassland plant diversity b...
Preprint
Full-text available
Soil fungi can help improve ecosystem restoration, yet our understanding of how fungi reassemble in degraded land is limited. Here, we studied fungal community structure using DNA metabarcoding in reforested sites following agricultural abandonment and overgrazing. We used a natural experiment in which reforestation with different numbers of tree s...
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A rich body of knowledge links biodiversity to ecosystem functioning (BEF), but it is primarily focused on small scales. We review the current theory and identify six expectations for scale dependence in the BEF relationship: (1) a nonlinear change in the slope of the BEF relationship with spatial scale; (2) a scale‐dependent relationship between e...
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Abstract Climate change and other anthropogenic drivers of biodiversity change are unequally distributed across the world. Overlap in the distributions of different drivers have important implications for biodiversity change attribution and the potential for interactive effects. However, the spatial relationships among different drivers and whether...
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At the global scale, human activities are threatening the extinction of many species. It remains debated, however, whether there has been corresponding loss of biodiversity at the smaller spatial scales at which species loss often erodes ecosystem functioning, stability and services. Here we consider changes in local biodiversity and productivity o...
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Human activities are fundamentally altering biodiversity. Projections of declines at the global scale are contrasted by highly variable trends at local scales, suggesting that biodiversity change may be spatially structured. Here, we examined spatial variation in species richness and composition change using more than 50,000 biodiversity time serie...
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Univariate and multivariate methods are commonly used to explore the spatial and temporal dynamics of ecological communities, but each has limitations, including oversimplification or abstraction of communities. Rank abundance curves (RACs) potentially integrate these existing methodologies by detailing species‐level community changes. Here, we had...
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Locally, plant species richness supports many ecosystem functions. Yet, the mechanisms driving these often‐positive biodiversity–ecosystem functioning relationships are not well understood. Spatial resource partitioning across vertical resource gradients is one of the main hypothesized causes for enhanced ecosystem functioning in more biodiverse gr...
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During the past few decades, Gray Wolves (Canis lupus) have recolonized many areas in the United States and Europe. In many other cases, however, although dispersing wolves reached areas with adequate prey, a population failed to recolonize. Herein, we provide a case study detailing how a wolf pack attempted for three years to recolonize an area 55...
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Global change drivers (GCDs) are expected to alter community structure and consequently, the services that ecosystems provide. Yet, few experimental investigations have examined effects of GCDs on plant community structure across multiple ecosystem types, and those that do exist present conflicting patterns. In an unprecedented global synthesis of...
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An amendment to this paper has been published and can be accessed via a link at the top of the paper.
Preprint
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A large body of research shows that biodiversity loss can reduce ecosystem functioning, thus providing support for the conservation of biological diversity. Much of the evidence for this relationship is drawn from biodiversity-ecosystem functioning experiments (hereafter: biodiversity experiments), in which biodiversity loss is simulated by randoml...
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Conservation aims to preserve species and ecosystem services. If rare species contribute little to ecosystem services, yet are those most in need of preservation, tradeoffs may exist for these contrasting objectives. However, little attention has focused on identifying how, when, and where rare species contribute to ecosystem services and at what s...
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Although evidence suggests that humans have elevated global extinction rates and lowered global species richness, species richness at scales smaller than the globe can increase, decrease or remain the same. However, the role of spatial scale is rarely considered as a modifier in driving how richness change unfolds. We first observed richness change...
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1.Global environmental changes are altering ecosystem stability, sometimes by altering biodiversity. For example, by driving grassland plant species loss, nitrogen (N) addition can reduce ecosystem stability. In other cases, however, N addition may alter productivity and ecosystem stability, by increasing the dominance of particularly productive or...
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Increasing plant diversity can increase ecosystem functioning, stability, and services in both natural and managed grasslands, but the effects of herbivore diversity, and especially of livestock diversity, remain underexplored. Given that managed grazing is the most extensive land use worldwide, and that land managers can readily change livestock d...
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Scientists have known for over a century that resource addition can lead to species loss from plant communities. Recent studies have also shown that resource addition can substantially restructure communities by altering their functional and taxonomic composition-even when species richness remains unchanged. Understanding which aspects of community...
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While antagonistic species interactions such as predation or competition have a long history of study, positive inter‐species interactions have received comparatively little attention. Mutualisms and commensalisms appear to be widespread in the animal kingdom, with examples of mammals, birds, fish, and reptiles from around the world engaging with o...
Chapter
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Concern about the functional consequences of unprecedented loss in biodiversity has prompted biodiversity-ecosystem functioning (BEF) research to become one of the most active fields of ecological research in the past 25 years. Hundreds of experiments have manipulated biodiversity as an independent variable and found compelling support that the fun...
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Biodiversity increases ecosystem functions underpinning a suite of services valued by society, including services provided by soils. To test whether, and how, future environments alter the relationship between biodiversity and multiple ecosystem functions, we measured grassland plant diversity effects on single soil functions and ecosystem multifun...
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Atmospheric nitrogen (N) deposition reduces plant diversity. However, it often remains unclear how dominant species and litter accumulation feedbacks mediate N-induced plant diversity declines. We tested mechanisms of N-induced diversity change through dominant grasses and litter in a 7-year field experiment. Nitrogen addition reduced species richn...
Preprint
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Human activities have fundamentally altered biodiversity. Extinction rates are elevated and model projections suggest drastic biodiversity declines. Yet, observed temporal trends in recent decades are highly variable, despite consistent change in species composition. Here, we uncover clear spatial patterns within this variation. We estimated trends...
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The responses of species to environmental changes will determine future community composition and ecosystem function. Many syntheses of global change experiments examine the magnitude of treatment effect sizes, but we lack an understanding of how plant responses to treatments compare to ongoing changes in the unmanipulated (ambient or background) s...
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A hopeful vision of the future is a world in which both people and nature thrive, but there is little evidence to support the feasibility of such a vision. We used a global, spatially explicit, systems modeling approach to explore the possibility of meeting the demands of increased populations and economic growth in 2050 while simultaneously advanc...
Preprint
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Climate change and other anthropogenic drivers of biodiversity change are unequally distributed across the world. The geographic patterns of different drivers, and the spatial overlap among these drivers, have important implications for the direction and pace of biodiversity change, yet are not well documented. Moreover, it is unknown if the geogra...
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Our understanding of the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning (BEF) applies mainly to fine spatial scales. New research is required if we are to extend this knowledge to broader spatial scales that are relevant for conservation decisions. Here, we use simulations to examine conditions that generate scale dependence of the BEF...
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The biodiversity-ecosystem functioning (BEF) literature provides strong evidence of the biophysical basis for the potential profitability of greater diversity but does not address questions of optimal management. BEF studies typically focus on the ecosystem outputs produced by randomly assembled communities that only differ in their biodiversity le...
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Biodiversity loss decreases ecosystem functioning at the local scales at which species interact, but it remains unclear how biodiversity loss affects ecosystem functioning at the larger scales of space and time that are most relevant to biodiversity conservation and policy. Theory predicts that additional insurance effects of biodiversity on ecosys...