Plant diversity plays a major role in ecosystems. In more diverse ecosystems resources are used more efficiently because the different plant species occupy all the available micro-environments and use the associated resources. However, the consequences of manipulating the number of species or varieties on key ecosystem services such as C sequestration and maintenance of habitat for rare weeds and animals are not well characterized, framing the scope of this project. We focus on willows for their relevance as energy crops, and quantify the how plant trait variation among different willow varieties grown in all possible combinations (providing a biodiversity gradient) affect ecosystem function. Experiments are performed along a climatic gradient from Sweden (SLU Uppsala) to Southern Germany. Our hypothesis is that a suitable variety mixture can help meet sustainability requirements better than monocultures.

Website: http://www.slu.se/ecolink-salix

Planted willows in Uppsala, Sweden. Photo by Stefanie Hoeber.
Planted willows in Uppsala, Sweden. Photo by Stefanie Hoeber.