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Detailed knowledge of the relationship between plant diversity and productivity is critical for advancing our understanding of ecosystem functioning and for achieving success in habitat restoration efforts. However, effects and interactions of diversity, succession and biotic invasions on productivity remain elusive. We studied newly established communities in relation to preexisting homogeneous vegetation invaded by exotic plants in the northern Great Plains, USA, at four study sites for 3 years. We observed variant diversity–productivity relationships for the seeded communities (generally positive monotonic at three sites and non-monotonic at the other site) but no relationships for the resident community or the seeded and resident communities combined at all sites and all years. Community richness was enhanced by seeding additional species but productivity was not. The optimal diversity (as indicated by maximum productivity) changed among sites and as the community developed. The findings shed new light on ecosystem functioning of biodiversity under different conditions and have important implications for restoration.