Soil biodiversity and soil community composition determine ecosystem multifunctionalityCameron Wagg, S. Franz Bender, Franco Widmer, Marcel G. A. van der Heijden
Biological diversity is the foundation for the maintenance of ecosystems. Consequently it is thought that anthropogenic activities that reduce the diversity in ecosystems threaten ecosystem performance. A large proportion of the biodiversity within terrestrial ecosystems is hidden below ground in soils, and the impact of altering its diversity and composition on the performance of ecosystems is still poorly understood. Using a novel experimental system to alter levels of soil biodiversity and community composition, we found that reductions in the abundance and presence of soil organisms results in the decline of multiple ecosystem functions, including plant diversity and nutrient cycling and retention. This suggests that below-ground biodiversity is a key resource for maintaining the functioning of ecosystems.