At first glance, grasslands may look like monotonous stretches of green or gold. But closer inspection reveals a bounty of diverse grasses, clovers and wildflowers coexisting within small areas. These rich ecosystems cover nearly one-third of Earth’s land surface and provide food and fuel to humans and animals alike. However, they face increasing pollution from agricultural fertilizer and industrial smog—sources of excess nutrients, the elements that plants use to grow.

Now, a large international team has examined how adding various nutrients affects how many species grow within global grasslands. It’s the first time that ecologists have studied multiple nutrients in combination, said lead author Dr. Stan Harpole, a professor at the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research in Leipzig. Harpole estimated that 90 percent of previous nutrient studies have examined either nitrogen or phosphorous, but no other factors.

Source: November 21, 2016,