Plant diversity stabilizes soil temperature

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Extreme weather events are occurring more frequently, and research has shown that plant diversity can help mitigate impacts of climate change by increasing plant productivity and ecosystem stability 1,2 . Although soil temperature and its stability are key determinants of essential ecosystem processes related to water and nutrient uptake 3 as well as soil respiration and microbial activity 4 , no study has yet investigated whether plant diversity can buffer soil temperature fluctuations. Using 18 years of a continuous dataset with a resolution of 1 minute (∼795,312,000 individual measurements) from a large-scale grassland biodiversity experiment, we show that plant diversity buffers soil temperature throughout the year. Plant diversity helped to prevent soil heating in hot weather, and cooling in cold weather. Moreover, this effect of plant diversity increased over the 18-year observation period with the aging of experimental communities and was even stronger under extreme conditions, i.e., on hot days or in dry years. Using structural equation modelling, we found that plant diversity stabilized soil temperature by increasing soil organic carbon concentrations and, to a lesser extent, by increasing the plant leaf area index. We suggest that the diversity-induced stabilization of soil temperature may help to mitigate the negative effects of extreme climatic events such as soil carbon release, thus slow global warming.

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