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Per capita interactions and stress tolerance drive stress-induced changes in biodiversity effects on ecosystem functions.


Environmental stress changes the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem functions, but the underlying mechanisms are poorly understood. Because species interactions shape biodiversity-ecosystem functioning relationships, changes in per capita interactions under stress (as predicted by the stress gradient hypothesis) can be an important driver of stress-induced changes in these relationships. To test this hypothesis, we measure productivity in microalgae communities along a diversity and herbicide gradient. On the basis of additive partitioning and a mechanistic community model, we demonstrate that changes in per capita interactions do not explain effects of herbicide stress on the biodiversity-productivity relationship. Instead, assuming that the per capita interactions remain unaffected by stress, causing species densities to only change through differences in stress tolerance, suffices to predict the stress-induced changes in the biodiversity-productivity relationship and community composition. We discuss how our findings set the stage for developing theory on how environmental stress changes biodiversity effects on ecosystem functions.