Light competition explains diversity decline better than niche dimensionality

Niv DeMalach*, Ronen Kadmon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debate

37 Scopus citations


One of the most widely documented patterns in plant ecology is the decrease in species diversity following nutrient enrichment. A long-standing explanation for this diversity decline is an increase in the relative importance of size-asymmetric light competition which accelerates the rate of competitive exclusion (the ‘light asymmetry hypothesis’). Recently, an alternative hypothesis has been proposed which attributes the negative effect of nutrient enrichment on species diversity to a reduction in the number of limiting resources (i.e. a reduced niche ‘dimensionality’). A recent global-scale experiment demonstrating that increasing the number of added resources leads to a decrease in species diversity was interpreted as a support for this ‘niche dimension hypothesis’. Here we highlight a number of theoretical considerations that question this interpretation and demonstrate that a deeper analysis of the new global-scale dataset provides a stronger support for the light asymmetry hypothesis.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1834-1838
Number of pages5
JournalFunctional Ecology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank D. Robinson, K. Thompson and additional anonymous reviewer for comments on a previous version of this manuscript. We also thank W. S. Harpole and his colleges for providing us their raw data. The study was supported by the Israel Science Foundation grant no. 447/15, the Hebrew University Advanced School of Environmental Studies, the Ring Foundation, and the Nature and Parks Authority. The authors declare no conflicts of interests.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 The Authors. Functional Ecology © 2017 British Ecological Society


  • biomass
  • fertilization
  • grassland
  • nutrient enrichment
  • productivity
  • resource limitation
  • richness
  • size asymmetry
  • species loss


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