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Theory suggests that biodiversity can act as a buffer against disturbances and environmental variability via two major mechanisms: Firstly, a stabilising effect by decreasing the temporal variance in ecosystem functioning due to compensatory processes; and secondly, a performance enhancing effect by raising the level of community response through the selection of better performing species. Empirical evidence for the stabilizing effect of biodiversity is readily available, whereas experimental confirmation of the performance-enhancing effect of biodiversity is sparse.
Here, we test the effect of different environmental regimes (constant versus fluctuating temperature) on bacterial biodiversity-ecosystem functioning relations. We show that positive effects of species richness on ecosystem functioning are enhanced by stronger temperature fluctuations due to the increased performance of individual species.
Our results provide evidence for the performance enhancing effect and suggest that selection towards functionally dominant species is likely to benefit the maintenance of ecosystem functioning under more variable conditions.