Heterogeneity within and among co-occurring foundation species increases biodiversity

Mads S. Thomsen, Andrew H. Altieri, Christine Angelini, Melanie J. Bishop, Fabio Bulleri, Roxanne Farhan, Viktoria M.M. Frühling, Paul E. Gribben, Seamus B. Harrison, Qiang He, Moritz Klinghardt, Joachim Langeneck, Brendan S. Lanham, Luca Mondardini, Yannick Mulders, Semonn Oleksyn, Aaron P. Ramus, David R. Schiel, Tristan Schneider, Alfonso SicilianoBrian R. Silliman, Dan A. Smale, Paul M. South, Thomas Wernberg, Stacy Zhang, Gerhard Zotz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


Habitat heterogeneity is considered a primary causal driver underpinning patterns of diversity, yet the universal role of heterogeneity in structuring biodiversity is unclear due to a lack of coordinated experiments testing its effects across geographic scales and habitat types. Furthermore, key species interactions that can enhance heterogeneity, such as facilitation cascades of foundation species, have been largely overlooked in general biodiversity models. Here, we performed 22 geographically distributed experiments in different ecosystems and biogeographical regions to assess the extent to which variation in biodiversity is explained by three axes of habitat heterogeneity: the amount of habitat, its morphological complexity, and capacity to provide ecological resources (e.g. food) within and between co-occurring foundation species. We show that positive and additive effects across the three axes of heterogeneity are common, providing a compelling mechanistic insight into the universal importance of habitat heterogeneity in promoting biodiversity via cascades of facilitative interactions. Because many aspects of habitat heterogeneity can be controlled through restoration and management interventions, our findings are directly relevant to biodiversity conservation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number581
Pages (from-to)581
Number of pages1
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


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