Although species richness effects on ecosystem functioning have been studied thoroughly in countless experiments, the effects of the other side of diversity – species evenness – remain less identified, especially at high species richness. Due to the large number of different model ecosystems that need to be created, the explanatory power of the experimental approach for evenness is indeed limited. We show here that experimental studies on the influence of species richness on ecosystem functions contain hidden information on the influence of species evenness. Both the effects of maximum and minimum evenness, and of a key set of intermediate evenness levels, can be derived from species richness – ecosystem function curves, and that for every richness level, by using communities with low species richness as the equivalent of highly uneven communities with higher richness. We show that evenness effects on ecosystem functioning have the same direction as richness effects, however with increasing effect sizes at higher richness levels. We validated our technique for a wide range of ecosystem functions and applied it to the species richness – community biomass data from an existing biodiversity experiment. Our approach could provide a fast and easy alternative to resource-intensive experiments in which evenness is experimentally varied, as we can build on the elaborate existing literature on species richness to assess its effects.
- Editor's choice