What evidence is available on the drivers of grassland ecosystem stability across a range of outcome measurements: a systematic map protocol


Recently there has been considerable focus on the ecosystem services concept which has resulted in important advancements in biodiversity conservation across land management scales. Many have, however, cautioned against the ecosystem services approach because of its focus only on certain aspects of the ecosystem which may be unsustainable in the long term. This has encouraged calls for deeper study into ecosystem functioning using an holistic ecosystem multifunctionality framework. Here greater biodiversity is thought to facilitate greater functioning leading to more sustainable ecosystems. Although ecosystem multifunctionality is a relatively recent development, the general premise is based on the hypothesis that diversity begets stability. However, several key review syntheses have consistently called for ecosystem stability driver-outcome relationship studies to extend beyond traditional measurements. Understanding these relationships requires holistic approaches which are often challenging to investigate experimentally due to resource constraints. Systematically mapping out the relationships between various stability drivers and outcomes could provide a more empirical basis on which both the ecosystem multifunctionality and services land management frameworks could be based. This work outlines the protocol for the first systematic map which will identify and catalogue diversity–stability related studies within the grassland biome. The outcomes of this study will produce a searchable database of the body of literature relevant to the debate and suggest future research directions in both empirical and applied ecology fields.


Relevant studies will be sourced from online databases. Inclusion criteria will be applied to the returned articles to identify studies relevant to the primary question; what evidence is available on the drivers of grassland ecosystem stability across a range of outcome measurements. These inclusion criteria will be based on (1) subject population—the grassland biome; (2) possible ecosystem stability drivers and comparators (i.e. measures of diversity, functioning, food web connectedness, and disturbances); and (3) stability outcomes considering all measures of ecosystem stability (i.e. coefficients of variation, changes in ecosystem functionality, resistance to disturbances and invasions, return rates following disturbance). Studies will be screened for relevance and included articles will be critically appraised for meta-analysis and systematic review potential. A narrative synthesis, together with a searchable and expandable database, will be compiled to catalogue the relevant studies. Descriptive summary statistics and bibliometric network analyses will also be presented.


Ecosystem services, Ecosystem functions, Ecosystem sustainability, Ecological processes, Land management practices, Ecosystem change

In Progress